The Financial Services sector has always had a strong marketing message around Inheritance Tax (IHT) Planning.
Advisers in particular see this as one of the key areas of interest for families, across the UK but especially in the South and South-East.
However the number of families who will pay Inheritance Tax and the amount collected by HMRC are both proportionately very low in comparison to all families in the UK and total taxation.
The problem with the focus on planning to avoid IHT is that it tends to make those who aren’t going to be caught in the IHT net ambivalent to their Estate Planning.
Even to the extent that less than half of all people even have a Will.
Yet when asked about their wishes most people, regardless of wealth, take the subject very seriously.
Furthermore, there is the added aspect of legacy wishes.
Legacy wishes are commonly thought of as answering such questions as “who I am going to leave my jewellery to?” , which is a part of the legacy aspect, but by no means all of it.
This is where words become important because very few people proportionately need to worry about Inheritance Tax Planning, nearly all people should be ‘Estate Planning’ (even if just to get a Will in place), and many people want to ensure their legacy wishes are met.
The outcome from this is that thousands of families are likely to be in a mode of “advice isn’t for us because we are unlikely to be paying Inheritance Tax” and consequently miss out on the value that sitting down with an adviser can bring in terms of legacy wishes.
If your legacy is solely about who to leave your jewellery to then it is fair to state that this can probably be dealt with, without advice. A Will or other clear instruction can probably take care of this.
However if you want to ensure that your wealth, after you have gone, is protected and held within your immediate bloodline then some form of legacy planning – with the help of an expert – is going to be valuable.
A Will, even if you have one, is not enough in most cases to ensure wealth remains in the bloodline.
That is not to say a Will isn’t an essential document, because it is. The problem though is the Will typically only deals with what happens on death and how assets are distributed. Once those assets have been distributed they can easily be lost.
The most obvious example is where you leave a property to children and then one of the children gets divorced a year or two later and half their share is lost in the divorce.
When presented with this scenario many decide they would like to protect against it and there are effective mechanisms for doing so.
This is just as important to someone who leaves wealth behind of £200,000 as it is to someone who has £2 million.
However the £200,000 family don’t need to worry about Inheritance Tax and consequently may not get advice because they see ‘death planning’ as tax planning.
Legacy wishes are far, far broader than this and can encompass all sorts of things, not just protection of wealth.
An adviser can work with these situations to get to understand an individual’s or couples wishes and what they want to happen long-term in respect of their wealth and how they can help and look after their family well beyond their own lifetimes.
This is the essence of legacy planning and this works for anyone, regardless of their IHT position.