What is Inheritance Tax Planning

What is Inheritance Tax Planning?

Inheritance tax planning is a critical aspect of financial planning aimed at reducing the inheritance tax liability that might arise when an individual’s assets are passed on after their death. This article explores the concept of inheritance tax planning, its importance, and effective strategies to manage and mitigate inheritance tax within the UK context.

Understanding Inheritance Tax

Inheritance tax (IHT) in the UK is a tax on the estate (the property, money, and possessions) of someone who has died. As of the current tax rules, there is normally no inheritance tax to be paid if either the value of the estate is below the £325,000 threshold or everything above the £325,000 threshold is left to a spouse, civil partner, a charity, or a community amateur sports club. Estates valued over this threshold are taxed at 40%.

The relevance of inheritance tax planning arises from the potential high rate of tax on estates that exceed the threshold. Effective planning can help reduce the burden of this tax on the bereaved, ensuring that a larger part of the deceased’s estate can be passed on to their intended beneficiaries.

Importance of Inheritance Tax Planning

Protecting Assets

Inheritance tax planning is vital for protecting assets. It ensures that a significant portion of an individual’s wealth is not eroded by taxes, thus preserving the value of the estate for future generations.

Providing for Loved Ones

Effective inheritance tax planning helps ensure that loved ones and beneficiaries receive the maximum possible benefit from their inheritance. By reducing the tax liability, more assets and funds are available to assist loved ones with important expenses like education, home purchases, or investment opportunities.

Peace of Mind

Having a robust inheritance tax plan in place can provide peace of mind, knowing that financial affairs are in order and that provisions have been made to take care of family members after one’s passing.

Strategies for Inheritance Tax Planning

Making a Will

One of the most straightforward strategies for inheritance tax planning is drafting a will. A will clarifies how an individual’s assets should be distributed, which can help in utilising exemptions and reliefs effectively. Without a will, assets are distributed according to the law of intestacy, which might not always align with the deceased’s wishes and could lead to a larger tax liability.

Gifting Assets

Gifting assets is another effective method of inheritance tax planning. Individuals can give away assets or money during their lifetime, which can reduce the value of the estate. It’s important to note that many gifts must be given seven years before the death of the giver to fully escape the inheritance tax. This rule is known as the “seven-year rule.”


Setting up trusts can be an advantageous way to manage and control how one’s assets are handled after their death. Trusts can help in reducing the inheritance tax liability, as some types of trusts can take assets out of the estate, thus lowering the overall value of the estate for inheritance tax purposes.

Life Insurance

A life insurance policy can be used as part of inheritance tax planning. The policy can be written in trust, which means it does not form part of the estate and is not subject to inheritance tax. The payout from the policy can be used to cover some or all of the inheritance tax bill.

Charitable Donations

Leaving a portion of the estate to charity can reduce or eliminate the inheritance tax liability. If someone leaves at least 10% of their estate to charity, the inheritance tax rate on the remaining estate drops to 36% from 40%.

Annual Exemption

Each year, individuals can gift up to £3,000 free of inheritance tax. This is known as the annual exemption. If the exemption isn’t used in one year, it can be carried forward to the next year, allowing an individual to gift up to £6,000 without attracting inheritance tax.


Inheritance tax planning is an essential aspect of financial planning, particularly for those with a sizeable estate. Through various strategies such as making a will, gifting assets, setting up trusts, purchasing life insurance, making charitable donations, and using annual exemptions, it is possible to significantly reduce the inheritance tax burden. Proper planning ensures that assets are preserved for future generations and that loved ones are adequately provided for, bringing peace of mind to all involved. As inheritance tax rules can be complex and subject to change, it is advisable to consult with a financial advisor or tax specialist to tailor an inheritance tax plan that best suits individual circumstances and ensures compliance with current tax laws.

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