Otto-Hans Nowak

Otto-Hans Nowak  

Senior Counsel

Executive Summary

Otto-Hans (Hans) Nowak is a Senior Counsel in our Vancouver office, an appointment that followed his retirement as a tax partner. Hans has a wealth management and wealth transfer planning practice, with a special emphasis on holistic global estate planning, but he also practises in the areas of domestic tax planning, international tax planning and international wealth transfer, estate and asset-preservation planning. He practised Canadian law in Hong Kong from 1989 to 1993 inclusive, and continues to travel extensively to Southeast Asia, China, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Brazil, Europe, South America – and more recently, the Middle East – to advise or meet with clients and prospective clients, including financial institutions, professional advisors and their clients, on international wealth transfer and structuring issues and Canadian tax law.

Prior to migrating from Germany to Canada in 1971, Hans was a captain (Hauptmann) and F-104 Starfighter pilot in the West German Air Force. He is fluent in both German and English, and conversational in Italian.

Hans developed the concept of holistic global estate planning for high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth families to provide solutions for their concerns. Under this planning, the focus is on the family wealth and on the family itself. Offshore asset protection structures will protect the family wealth. Family governance structures will help the family to stay united from generation to generation. A family charter will state the values of the family and provide the ground rules for their interaction with each other and their interaction with third parties, as well as their decision-making. An oversight structure will allow the family to supervise and practically control the onshore and offshore asset protection structures the family may have established. The stewardship of the family wealth by one generation of the family for the next generation is the recommended form of ownership of the family wealth, and preferable to the division of the family wealth on each transfer of the family wealth to the next generation. However, this concept places the ultimate responsibility and power over the family and the family wealth in the hands of the family and not in the hands of any third-party service provider.

Hans recognizes that it is up to the family in each case to decide how they wish to organize themselves, if at all, and how they wish to deal with the family wealth. But Hans insists that every family must be fully apprised of its options so that it can make an informed decision about its actions, and thereby its future. In his view, it is the obligation of an adviser to do his or her best to brief the family fully and in every respect.

In summary, the concept of holistic global estate planning will, if adopted, protect the family wealth through asset-protection structures, facilitate the inter-generational transfer of the family wealth using the stewardship principle, preserve and develop the human capital and potential of the family through an appropriate family governance structure and the appropriate family policies, and avoid (to the extent possible) disputes among family members and recourse to courts.

It will do this by having a family charter that sets out the ground rules for the family’s interaction among its members and with third parties, and by charging the present generation to prepare the next generation to accept the stewardship of the family wealth and the responsibility for the continuing development of the human capital of the family.

This is, of course, a tall order. The planning must be in terms of hundreds of years, and the family organization must anticipate a continuing growth in the number of family members over the years. Clients for this area of practice come to Hans from everywhere in the world, not just from Canada. In fact, the majority of his clients are from outside of Canada and currently come from Southeast Asia, China and Germany!

While Hans places a special focus on holistic global estate planning, he also practises in the areas of domestic tax planning, international tax planning and international wealth transfer, estate and asset-preservation planning. Hans designs and implements appropriate plans and executes related corporate, commercial and real estate transactions. He uses offshore trusts, foundations (Stiftungen), establishments (Anstalten) and other entities as required. He advises family offices of high-net-worth families on appropriate family structures, charter documents and constitutions, and on the appropriate interaction with the structures owning the family wealth.

His practice is global in nature, particularly as regards holistic global estate planning. There need not be a connection to Canada!

Representative Work

  • Focuses practice on domestic and international wealth transfer planning for high-net-worth individuals and families and related asset protection, family governance, and family charter and family policies.
  • Develops plans that have helped such individuals and families to achieve their objectives in terms of asset preservation, estate planning and tax minimization. 
  • Has extensive knowledge of relevant offshore jurisdictions and offshore service providers for, and of the use of, trusts, foundations (Stiftungen), establishments (Anstalten) and corporations, which greatly assists in the design of effective structures for such plans and ensures their speedy and valid implementation.
  • Has advised on inbound investments in Canadian real estate and businesses, and on business immigration to Canada and any related planning.

Publications & Presentations

  • Has written and spoken on such topics as “Taxation Law,” “Income Tax Consequences of Sale of Business:  Assets vs. Shares”; and “Offshore Trust Planning for Immigrants to Canada.”
  • Regularly holds private briefings and seminars on international wealth transfer planning for bankers, accountants, prospective clients and other interested groups, both in Canada and abroad.
  • Has on numerous occasions spoken to the public and business community to promote the concept of family governance and wealth management, including lecturing at the "Built to Last - Second Generation Entrepreneur Family Business Program" by the Sauder School of Business of the University of British Columbia in July, 2015.
  • Has spoken on panels on tax, wealth management and wealth transfer planning for high- and ultra-high-net-worth families and private clients at International Bar Association conferences in:  London, UK in March 2005; Auckland, NZ in October 2004; Panama City in March 2004; New York in December 2003; and San Francisco in September 2003.
  • Has spoken at many other conferences, including: the Chinese Wealth Forum – Chinese Wealth Development Summit in Beijing, China in January 2016, the 30th Anniversary Conference of Transcontinental Trusts in Geneva, Switzerland in June 2015, the 28th Annual International Conference of Transcontinental Trusts in Geneva, Switzerland in June 2013, the first Canadian Private Family Office Invitational in Niagara-on-the-Lake in September 2008; the Family Office Forum in Berlin, Germany in September 2007; the Global Chinese Financial Forum Shanghai Conference in Shanghai, China in July 2007; the Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) Seminar in San Francisco in March 2007; and the Inter-Pacific Bar Association Conference in Bali, Indonesia in May 2005.

Rankings & Recognitions

  • Martindale-Hubbell® BV® Distinguished™ 4.4 out of 5 Peer Review Rated.