Getting your affairs in order

Where do you want your wealth to go?

Getting your affairs in order for when you pass away can bring real peace of mind as you get older. Failing to protect family wealth from Inheritance Tax could cost families thousands of pounds but there are various strategies and solutions to legally avoid or mitigate paying this tax.

While some of us may want to spend it while we can, there will be others who want to pass on some of the wealth they’ve worked hard for. For these people, managing any Inheritance Tax liability is paramount, as is making sure the money they leave ends up with the right people at the right time.

Preserve and protect assets
Whether you have earned your wealth, inherited it or made shrewd investments, you will want to ensure that as little of it as possible legally ends up in the hands of the taxman and that it can be enjoyed by you, your family and your intended beneficiaries.

If you pass away and don’t have provision in place to preserve and protect your assets, then your family may end up spending a substantial amount of time and money battling over your wealth.

Fundamental part of planning
This process of dividing up your assets could become complicated. Estate planning gives you control over what happens to your assets when you pass away. It is a fundamental part of financial planning, no matter how much wealth you have accumulated.

Not only does an estate plan help to ensure that those who are important to you will be taken care of when you’re no longer around, but it can also help ensure that assets are transferred in an orderly manner, and that Inheritance Tax liabilities are minimised.

Developing a clear plan
The process involves developing a clear plan that details how you would like all of your wealth and property to be distributed after your death. It involves putting documentation in place to ensure that your assets are transferred in line with your wishes.

Your estate consists of everything you own. This includes savings, investments, some pensions (although most pensions don’t form part of your estate), property, life insurance (not written in an appropriate trust) and personal possessions. Debts and liabilities are subtracted from the total value of all assets.

What to consider when developing an effective plan for the future

Write a Will
Creating a Will should be the first priority of any Inheritance Tax Planning. Having an up-to-date and legal Will in place will ensure that all your estate is administered according to your wishes, as well as ensuring that there is no misstatement which might lead to undesired results. A Will also helps you to secure your Inheritance Tax position and can save you money due to Inheritance Tax being chargeable.

If you don’t yet have a Will, it’s important to take the time to create one now and minimise the risk of inheriting assets being distributed by the State under intestacy rules – which won’t meet your wishes nor have any tax advantage for the recipients.

The intestacy rules will decide who benefits from your estate – and that can produce undesirable results. The law also sets a hierarchy of who is able to handle your financial affairs after death, and that can lead to problems if the person is not suitable because of age, health, geographical location or for any other reason.

Make a Lasting Power of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) can be made for Property and Financial Affairs, as well as Health and Welfare. These documents can be put in place at any time, and it is important to consider setting them up, no matter what age you are.

An LPA sets out your wishes as to who should assist you in relation to your property and financial affairs and your health and welfare. You can control who deals with these and set out any limitations and guidance.

Plan for Inheritance Tax
Once the Will and the LPA are sorted, the next step is to think about Inheritance Tax planning. Whenever someone dies, the value of their estate may become liable for Inheritance Tax. If you are domiciled in the UK, your estate includes everything you own, including your home and certain trusts in which you may have an interest.

Inheritance Tax is potentially charged at a rate of 40% on the value of everything you own above the ‘nil-rate band’ (NRB) threshold. The nil-rate band is the value of your estate that is not chargeable to UK Inheritance Tax.

Gift assets while you’re alive
The amount is set by the government and is currently £325,000, which is frozen until 2026. In addition, since 6 April 2017, if you leave your home to direct lineal descendants, the value of your estate before tax is paid will increase with the addition of the ‘residence nil-rate band’ (RNRB). For the 2022/23 tax year, the RNRB is £175,000.

One thing that’s important to remember when developing an estate preservation plan is that the process isn’t just about passing on your assets when you die. It’s also about analysing your finances now and potentially making the most of your assets while you are still alive. By gifting assets to younger generations while you’re still around, you could enjoy seeing the assets put to good use, while simultaneously reducing your Inheritance Tax bill.

Make use of gift allowances
A non-exempt gift from one individual to another constitutes a Potentially Exempt Transfer (PET) for Inheritance Tax. If you survive for seven years from the date of the gift, no Inheritance Tax arises on the PET.

Some exempt gifts are immediately out of your estate: Each tax year, you can give away £3,000 worth of gifts (your ‘annual exemption’) tax-free. You can also give away wedding or registered civil partnership gifts up to £1,000 per person (£2,500 for a grandchild and £5,000 for a child). In addition, you can give your children regular sums of money from your surplus income.

You can also give as many gifts of up to £250 to as many individuals as you want, although not to anyone who has already received a larger gift from you that tax year. None of these gifts are subject to Inheritance Tax.

Invest into IHT-exempt assets
For experienced suitable investors, another way to potentially minimise Inheritance Tax liabilities is to invest in Inheritance Tax exempt assets. These schemes are higher risk and are therefore not suitable for all investors, and any investment decisions should always be made with the benefit of professional financial advice.

One example of this is the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). The vast majority of EIS-qualifying investments attract 100% Inheritance Tax relief via Business Relief (BR) because the qualifying trades for EIS purposes are very similar to those which qualify for BR. Qualification for BR is subject to the minimum holding period of two years (from the later of the share issue date and trade commencement).

Life insurance within a Trust
If you’re looking to potentially minimise any Inheritance Tax your estate may be subject to, then consider placing life insurance within an appropriate trust. This allows the payout from the policy to be given directly to your beneficiaries, which won’t be included in the calculations for any Inheritance Tax.

Taking this step can offer peace of mind for you and financial security for your heirs. Remember your life insurance policy is likely to be a significant asset – by putting it in an appropriate trust, you can manage the way your beneficiaries receive their inheritance.

Keep wealth within a pension
A defined contribution pension is normally free of Inheritance Tax, unlike many other investments. It is not part of your taxable estate. Keeping your pension wealth within your pension fund and passing it down to future generations can be very tax-efficient estate planning.

If you die before 75, your pension will be passed on tax-free (as long as no Lifetime Allowance charge applies). However, if you die after 75, your beneficiaries will pay tax on any payments they receive at their marginal Income Tax rate. Your pension will not usually be covered by your Will, so you will need to ensure that your pension provider knows who your nominated beneficiaries are.

Preserved wealth for future generations
We all have one thing in common: we can’t take our assets with us when we die. If you want to ensure that your wealth is preserved for future generations and passed on efficiently, an estate plan is crucial.