A common question that arises in the Private Client team is whether or not a client should transfer property to their children now, rather than leaving it to them in their Will. One of the reasons for this is to benefit a child that is struggling to purchase a property in the current market, but other more common reasons that pop up are to avoid potential future care home fees, or to avoid a large Inheritance Tax bill on death.
Whilst such lifetime planning can prove beneficial, there are other factors to consider when thinking about transferring your property to younger generations.
If the primary reason for transferring property is to avoid care home fees, you should be aware that local authorities can see past such transfers and may still include the property in their means testing notwithstanding the fact that you have given it away. It might also mean that you are divesting yourself of a major asset that could potentially fund much needed care in the future.
In addition, if you intend to continue living in the property that you wish to transfer, you may be caught by the Gift With A Reservation Of Benefit Rules. This can result in the Inland Revenue setting the gift aside for Inheritance Tax purposes for failing to fully divest yourself of any interest in the property and thereby making a “sham” gift.
There are also other taxes to take into consideration. There may be a Capital Gains Tax bill to pay if the property you are intending to transfer is not your main residence. In addition, if your child has not owned any property previously and is intending to purchase in the future, they may not be able to take advantage of the recent Stamp Duty benefits for First-Time Buyers.
Rather than giving your property to your children during your lifetime, you may find that structuring your Will in the correct way can achieve the objective of Inheritance Tax efficiency. For example, the Government have recently introduced a main residence nil rate band which currently amounts to £125,000 and will rise to £175,000 by 2020. Accordingly, if your property is left to your surviving spouse, and then to your direct descendants, you can take advantage of a nil rate band (tax free allowance) of up to £775,000. Inheritance Tax would be charged at 40% thereafter.
While lifetime gifts of property may be a very efficient tax-saving exercise, one must consider the implications and weigh up the alternatives first.
Meaby&Co can advise you on lifetime estate planning and Will drafting. Please contact Laura Sentkovsky at email@example.com with any questions.
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