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Inheritance Tax and the family home: The Million Pound Question

03 Apr 2017

A change to the rules about Inheritance Tax is due to come into force on 6 April which could eventually allow married couples and Civil Partners to leave £1 million of assets to their children, tax-free on death.

The Current Rules

Under current rules, when someone dies the first £325,000 of their estate is free of Inheritance Tax (“IHT”), known as the Nil Rate Band (“NRB”). However, if a husband and wife leave everything to each other in their Wills, then on first death all assets passing to the surviving spouse are exempt from IHT. This means that none of the NRB is used on the first death, and can be transferred to the estate of the surviving spouse on their death. The estate on second death will, therefore, have a combined NRB of £650,000. Assets over this amount are then subject to IHT at 40%.

The New Rules

As of 6 April 2017, an additional NRB will be available to individuals, which can be offset against the value of their main residence if this passes to their ‘lineal descendants’, which includes children, grandchildren, step-children, foster children and adopted children.

This will be known as the ‘Residence Nil Rate Band’ (“RNRB”) and will initially be £100,000. This will increase by £25,000 every financial year until 2020/21 when it will be £175,000.

Like the NRB, the RNRB will also be transferable between spouses.

So, by way of example, Mr and Mrs Page have a house worth £350,000 and savings of £650,000. Mr Page dies in 2021, and leaves everything to Mrs Page. At this time everything passes free of IHT and Mr Page’s NRB and RNRB have not been used. Mrs Page then dies and leaves everything to their children equally.

At that time, the estate of Mrs Page will be able to claim her RNRB of £175,000 and Mr Page’s unused RNRB of £175,000 giving a total of £350,000. This means that the house will pass to the children free of IHT.

The estate will also have Mrs Page’s NRB of £325,000 and Mr Page’s unused NRB of £325,000, giving a total of £650,000. All of the other assets of the estate worth £650,000 will also pass to the children free of IHT.

Due to the change in rules, Mrs Page’s estate would have saved £140,000 of IHT.

By 2020/21 married couples and Civil Partners with children may, therefore, benefit from the long awaited £1 million Inheritance Tax allowance.

 

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A Word of Warning

The rules around the RNRB are not straightforward and, because of this, Wills which have previously been prepared may now need to be reviewed.

For example, a child may predecease their parents. Whilst current Wills may anticipate this and include a substitute gift to grandchildren, depending on the wording within the Wills, the substitute gift may not qualify for the RNRB. Current Wills may also need to be reviewed if they include Trusts, as the property may not pass to ‘lineal descendants.’

Difficulties can also arise if a decision is made to downsize, if more than one property is owned or if unmarried couples have children from previous relationships.

Whilst the rules provide for some of these things, given the potential IHT savings available with the introduction of the RNRB, it is important for people to review their Wills and seek advice to ensure the new relief will be captured.

At Hay & Kilner our Private Client team have extensive experience in preparing Wills and IHT planning and are happy to provide advice and assistance in these matters.

For further information, please contact Richard Marshall, Associate Solicitor at Hay & Kilner

Call: 0191 232 8345

Email: Richard.Marshall@hay-kilner.co.uk