Inheritance tax has been described as a voluntary tax. It is true if you are wealthy, and you give your assets away, well in advance of dying, you might be able to avoid it. Sadly, many of us don’t give it a thought until it is too late, and tax is payable on our death. So what should you do?

Firstly, count up all your assets. If necessary, obtain valuations, if one hasn’t been done for some time.

Most UK residents have an allowance of £325,000 before inheritance tax is payable. If you leave your house to your children, you may also qualify for a further allowance of £150,000, known as the Residents Nil Rate Band. The rules on this allowance are complicated so it is worth taking professional advice, to see if you qualify. Assets over these levels are taxed at 40% on death. If you are married, or in a civil partnership, you can leave assets to your spouse or partner with no tax payable when you die, although they may be taxed when they die. Gifts to a charity will also pass free of tax.

Assuming you have a liability, can you give any assets away? Generally, if you survive seven years, a gift will be considered to be outside of your estate. If you are worried about gifting to children, perhaps because their situations are unstable, it is possible to gift an asset to a trust, where it can be held for your chosen beneficiaries or their children. Do consider if such a gift will create a capital gain on transfer? In some cases it may be worth paying the tax. You can also give small gifts with no liability each year, e.g. £3,000 to a son or daughter, so it is worth doing that.

If you have a valuable home, you may consider downsizing, and then gifting capital to your children?

It is well worth talking to a financial adviser who specialises in Inheritance tax planning. They may have products that can increase your regular income, but decrease your capital, and potential inheritance tax. They may also be able to assist you in passing assets to your children.

At Kendal Wills we work with several leading financial advisers. If you don’t have one, we would be pleased to refer you to an adviser near you.