Inheritance Tax (IHT) can be a nasty surprise during the administration of a Will. New Year is the ideal time to check that you’ve done all you can to minimise the burden.

Increasing property prices has had the effect of increasing the amount of Inheritance Tax many people are paying. There are ways of reducing the amount due if you plan in advance.

The IHT threshold

IHT is payable at the rate of 40% of the value of an estate above £325,000, for example on a £400,000 estate, IHT is 40% of £75,000, ie. £30,000. The person who is appointed as executor or administrator of a Will is responsible for valuing the deceased’s estate and calculating the amount of IHT due, then making payment within six months of the date of death to HM Revenue & Customs.

IHT is not payable on money left to a spouse or civil partner or to charity. When the remaining spouse or civil partner dies, the unused IHT allowance of £325,000 is added to their allowance. If some of the allowance has been used, then only the remaining balance is passed on.

Leaving property to a family member

If you leave your primary residence to your children or grandchildren, to include step-children, then a ‘main residence nil-rate band’ is applied. This is £150,000 per person for the tax year 2019/20, rising to £175,000 as from April 2020.

This means that where your main home is gifted to your children or step-children, the total IHT allowance rises to £475,000. Any unused portion of this allowance can be passed on to a spouse or civil partner, meaning they could potentially pass on assets valued at £950,000 free of IHT, rising to £1m in April 2020.

Giving gifts

Some gifts given during your lifetime may also have the effect of reducing the amount of IHT payable. The sum of £3,000 can be given in any tax year and any unused portion of this can be carried forward to the following tax year, although not beyond a single year.

In addition, gifts of up to £250 can be given to anyone and wedding gifts can be given to children in the sum of £5,000, grandchildren of £2,500 or others of £1,000.

Larger gifts are known as potentially exempt transfers and when someone dies within seven years of making them, IHT is payable on a sliding scale.

Setting up a trust

It is possible to leave assets to your loved ones via a trust to reduce IHT payable. Professional advice should be sought to ensure your beneficiaries receive what you want them to have and that your assets are adequately protected by the trust.

If you would like to talk to one of our expert tax, wills and probate solicitors, ring us on 01634 353 658 or email us at