When I’m asked whether people should put their home in trust to preserve it for their heirs, my answer is almost always no.
Trusts can be useful to protect the assets of people who are unable to make decisions for themselves due to age or mental health issues.
They are also used by the very wealthy to keep estates intact from generation to generation. But for the majority of the population trusts are unnecessary and expensive.
Tax can be charged when the trust starts and ends, and every ten years in between. Inheritance tax is not a worry for most people, as only one in 20 estates will attract inheritance tax. An estate is completely exempt if it passes to a spouse or civil partner.
It is also exempt if it’s less than £325,000 – or £450,000 if it includes the family home, which is being left to children or grandchildren.
The estate of a widowed person can be double those amounts without any inheritance tax being due. If you have a genuine concern about inheritance tax, get independent advice from someone who belongs to the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners – go to www.step.org/for-the-public, click on “Find a member” and enter your town and the first half of your postcode.
Care home fees are a worry, but most people never go into a home. And even if they do, the value of the family home is protected if a spouse, civil partner or relative aged 60 or more lives there. In any case, there is a fatal flaw in every plan to protect the value of your family home from being used to pay care home fees.
If you put your home in trust to hide it you are guilty of what is called “deliberate deprivation of assets”, and the local council can treat the home as though you still owned it and can use its value anyway.
Never consider a plan to avoid inheritance tax or care home fees that is sold at a promotional event or in response to an advert, email, or call.
You can spend thousands of pounds on a product that probably won’t work. At worst, your money or home may disappear. For more information go to www.advisingfamilies.org and search “Inheritance Tax Trusts”.