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  |  News   |  Inheritance Tax: What You Need to Know and Choosing the Right Executor for Your Will 

Inheritance Tax: What You Need to Know and Choosing the Right Executor for Your Will 

Inheritance Tax (IHT) often takes a backseat when it comes to discussions on estate planning. This levy on a deceased person’s property, money, and possessions is, however, a crucial consideration. But how does IHT work, and what complexities do UK residents need to be aware of? This comprehensive guide aims to demystify Inheritance Tax, enabling you to plan effectively for the future.

The Basics of Inheritance Tax: Nil-Rate Band and Tax Rate

To begin, it’s key to understand that not all estates will incur Inheritance Tax. The UK has a tax-free threshold, also known as the ‘nil-rate band‘, which currently stands at £325,000. This means that if an estate is valued below this limit, no IHT is payable. However, if the value of the estate exceeds this threshold, the excess will be taxed at 40%. For example, if an estate is worth £500,000, the IHT would be calculated on £175,000 (£500,000 minus £325,000), equating to an IHT bill of £70,000.

Despite this seemingly straightforward system, the calculation of IHT can be nuanced with exemptions and reliefs that could significantly reduce the tax due.

Maximising Allowances: The Residence Nil-Rate Band

One crucial allowance is the ‘residence nil-rate band’ (RNRB), introduced in April 2017. The RNRB provides an additional allowance when you leave your main residence to your direct descendants like children or grandchildren. The RNRB currently stands at £175,000. By combining the standard nil-rate band and the RNRB effectively, individuals could potentially pass on up to £500,000 free of IHT, or up to £1 million for married couples or civil partners.

The Role of Lifetime Gifts in IHT Calculations

Lifetime gifts are another pivotal component in the IHT landscape. Generally, gifts made more than seven years before the giver’s death are not counted towards the estate’s value for IHT purposes—these are known as ‘Potentially Exempt Transfers’. However, if death occurs within seven years of making the gift, it could be subject to IHT, based on a sliding scale known as ‘taper relief’.

Making Use of Relief on Certain Assets

Furthermore, there are reliefs available on certain types of assets. For instance, business relief can reduce the IHT on a business, a partnership, or shares in an unlisted company. Similarly, agricultural relief can lower the IHT on a farm or woodland. Knowledge and application of these reliefs can greatly assist in efficient estate planning.

Charitable Donations: A Powerful Tool in IHT Planning

Charitable giving plays a significant role in IHT calculations. If you leave at least 10% of your ‘net estate’ to a charity, you can reduce the IHT rate on certain assets from 40% to 36%. This not only benefits worthy causes but can also be a potent tool in minimising IHT liabilities.

Planning Ahead: Reducing the IHT Burden

Planning for IHT is a complex task and is heavily influenced by individual circumstances. It’s crucial to consider IHT as a part of your overall estate planning. This can be achieved by planning and structuring your will effectively, making appropriate lifetime gifts, setting up trusts, or taking out life insurance policies written in trust.

The Importance of Professional Guidance

Due to the complexities of IHT, seeking professional advice is highly advisable when writing a will and planning an estate. Proper advice and guidance can help optimise allowances and reliefs and potentially enable a substantial portion of your estate to be passed on to your loved ones without incurring an exorbitant IHT bill. Despite this, recent studies have shown that a large proportion of UK residents are still unaware of the strategies to limit IHT, leading to unnecessary overpayment.

Understanding Inheritance Tax in the UK

Inheritance Tax in the UK may initially seem daunting, but a firm grasp of its intricacies is indispensable when preparing a will. Understanding the basics, coupled with expert advice, can ensure your estate is passed on according to your wishes with minimal tax implications.

Inheritance Tax should be viewed as an essential part of estate planning conversations, encouraging informed and effective decisions that safeguard our legacy and ensure our loved ones’ financial security. Estate planning is more than just preparing for death; it’s about strategising for life, ensuring the financial well-being of those we care about the most.

Choosing An Executor For Your Will

The task of writing a will often comes with many challenging decisions. One of the most important is choosing the right executor—the individual or organisation responsible for administering your estate according to your will’s instructions. While it might seem like a straightforward decision, selecting the most suitable executor requires careful thought and understanding of the responsibilities involved. This guide will help you navigate this crucial choice.

Understanding the Role of an Executor

Before choosing your executor, it’s essential to understand their responsibilities. These include but are not limited to:

Applying for probate

Identifying, collecting, and managing your assets

Paying any outstanding debts, taxes, and administration expenses

Distributing the remaining estate to beneficiaries as per your will

Given these tasks, the role of an executor requires someone trustworthy, reliable, and capable of handling administrative tasks and making sound decisions.

The Attributes of an Effective Executor

Given the complexity and importance of the executor’s role, you should consider several attributes when making your choice:


The executor will be responsible for fulfilling the terms of your will and ensuring all legal and financial obligations are met. As such, they should be someone who is reliable, organised, and able to handle responsibility.

Financial Acumen

While they don’t need to be a financial expert, having some level of financial acumen can be beneficial as they’ll need to handle your financial affairs, from paying bills to potentially dealing with Inheritance Tax.

Availability and Longevity

The process of executing a will can take several months or even years. It’s important that your chosen executor is likely to be available and in good health to carry out these duties.


Your executor may need to mediate disputes that arise among beneficiaries. Someone with good communication skills and a diplomatic approach will be invaluable in such scenarios.

Choosing Between Friends, Family or Professionals

While it’s common to appoint a close friend or family member as an executor, this isn’t your only option.

Friends and family may be well-placed to understand your wishes and have a personal interest in carrying out your will. However, executing a will can be a complex and time-consuming process that not everyone will be prepared for.

Alternatively, you could appoint a professional executor, such as a solicitor or a bank. They can bring experience and expertise to the process, but they will also charge for their services, reducing the amount left for your beneficiaries.

A balanced approach could be to appoint a trusted friend or family member and a professional executor. This could offer the best of both worlds—the personal touch of someone who knew you well and the expertise of a professional.

The Importance of Backup Executors

It’s wise to name more than one executor or at least have a backup in place. This is because your first choice might predecease you or be unable to act when the time comes. Having more than one executor can also share the workload, making the process more manageable.

Getting Consent from Chosen Executors

Once you’ve made your decision, ensure you discuss it with your chosen executors. Being an executor can be a considerable responsibility, and it’s crucial that they’re willing and able to take it on.

Making the Right Choice

Choosing the right executor is a significant decision and a crucial part of the will-writing process. By carefully considering the role, traits, and the individuals or professionals you trust, you can ensure your final wishes are fulfilled and your estate is handled appropriately.

Remember, your will is an important document, and it’s crucial to review it regularly, especially if your chosen executor’s circumstances change. In the end, the right choice of executor can help provide peace of mind that your wishes will be respected and carried out. To find out more about will writing, executors, power of attorney and much more, simply contact our professional team today at Complete Estate Protection and we will be happy to help in any way we can.