The problem: The client wants to raise some money to supplement their pension and help pay for essentials. We have discussed all available options and come to the conclusion that equity release is the only viable solution. The client wants to pursue my recommendation but her son is less than convinced and wants to stop my client from proceeding. What can I do to help my client work through this situation?
The solution: This is a common situation for equity release advisers to deal with and many advisers have their own methods for how they bring their client’s family into their discussions.
The first thing to recognise is the emotional baggage that is brought to any equity release discussion, particularly by close family members who may have been expecting to benefit from an inheritance.
Most advisers bring the immediate family into an early meeting with the client to make sure they are fully aware of what taking out an equity release plan – be that lifetime mortgage or home reversion – means for both the client and them. While it is important to have this conversation with the family members it is also important that the client is seen/spoken to on their own. The reason being – while not applicable in this case – is that sometimes the son [or daughter] or relative may be putting pressure on the client to release equity when they have no need to and/or do not wish to.
In the case outlined above we have the opposite problem where the client has a need and wants to release equity from their property, however the son is putting pressure on the client not to go ahead. It is interesting that it is the son doing this as most advisers I speak to say that the son of the client is often happy for their parent to proceed and it will often be other relatives – perhaps nephews or nieces who were again expecting an inheritance – who may not be so accommodating.
Of course from a legal point of view it is entirely up to the client what they do with their property and if the client is completely happy with the situation they can proceed with the product regardless. However, it would suit everyone if the son was also on side and therefore perhaps a further final meeting with them to again outline exactly how the process works, the responsibilities on the client, and perhaps (if applicable) to outline what is being done and the possible future effects on either of them would be.
If the son is still unhappy but the client wants to proceed, again this needs to be managed sensitively but there is nothing legally that can be done to stop the process.
The son might argue that the client is being missold to but by using a specialist equity release solicitor there will be no case to answer. The introduction of the new Equity Release Council standards from next year, whereby a solicitor will see a client face-to-face for the signing of the agreement, will also help in this regard.
Most solicitors will start off seeing a client without the family present to ascertain if they are clear about what they are doing and again to make sure they are not being put under any kind of duress by family members.
It is wise to ask the client if they mind you sending off their suitability report – which will include all details about the son’s grievances – to the solicitor concerned so they can be fully informed of the situation.
On the whole it would obviously be better to have the son working in tandem with your client but as long as you follow the process correctly and you document all your work every step of the way, then you should have no problems getting the client what they want and need.
Chris Prior is Manager Sales and Distribution at Bridgewater Equity Release