The Nordics have a total population of 26 million, less than half that of England and Wales, ranging from 9.6 million in Sweden to 56,000 in Greenland. They have some of the most prosperous and developed countries in the world and rate highly in social health and happiness indices. Their cultural heritage is rich and has produced many talented individuals. In 2012 the Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch's The Scream became the most expensive artwork sold at auction, after it fetched $119.9m (£74m). Wherever you go in the Nordics you encounter overlapping historical associations, you find a distinctive family of nations whose laws are characterised by a down to earth approach to problem solving and a value system which frowns upon ostentation of wealth.
The Nordics account for a significant list of companies that are global leaders from biotech, shipping and drinks in Denmark through engineering and retail in Sweden, electronic gaming in Finland to oil extraction and fishing in Norway. There are now some 80,000 first generation UK resident Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, Finns, Icelanders and Greenlanders living in the United Kingdom. These are not significant numbers and the annual influx is small compared with other regions, but the contribution they make is out of all proportion to size.
England is a natural destination for those looking beyond their own frontiers. Had Harold II defeated William the Conqueror at Hastings and then lost out to Harold Hardrada at Stamford Bridge it would be a connection that would be all the more pronounced, but the association remains strong and long-standing. Not least amongst the UK’s attractions remains its comparatively generous income tax regime. Astrid Lindgren, creator of the children’s character Pippilongstocking, was for a time paying Sweden more than 100% of her income in taxes.
Nordic families arriving in the UK may need legal assistance for a variety of reasons. There might be an inheritance to contend with or matrimonial property issues on a divorce. There may be Wills that need to be prepared, perhaps required to cater for children born in a former marriage, and a house to rent or house acquisition to finance. These things often require a familiarity with how English law interacts with the local rules on joint property, marriage contracts, community of property, testamentary capacity, probate and the way that different types of assets may be tied up locally (e.g. under foundations).
Nordic families and their advisers also need an understanding of how English concepts, such as the different types of trust, will extend to them here and be interpreted at home. The summer house is an important aspect of Nordic life; it is where families like to return for long vacations. Often there are questions about how they can retain their properties in a manner which is tax efficient (from both a UK and local perspective). The differences between the Nordic systems of law and those within the UK almost invariably necessitate working closely with local specialist contacts in the provision of fiscal and estate planning products including overseas administered wills, insurance bonds, trusts and remittance planning and expatriation strategies.
Extracting a grant of probate can be an expensive business in the Nordic lands because court fees are generally high and the court’s supervision of the administration of the estate extends to assets worldwide and so advice is needed on what are the alternatives. Another significant feature of Nordic wealth management is the utilisation of offshore banking facilities provided by the regional banks, principally run through Luxembourg, who have sector specific expertise. A good example of this is the 200 hundred year-old tradition of investing in Danish mortgage bonds.
The Nordic community bring with them a commitment to innovation with an understanding for the long term. They present a useful a case study of the need to understand where clients come from both in terms of family and background when engaging estate planning.