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In an interesting development of the Government’s services to the public to be ‘digital by default’ HM Revenue & Customs has launched an inheritance tax (IHT) ‘calculator’ via the government’s website to help consumers calculate whether their estates will be subject to inheritance tax at the time of their death, writes Helen Langworthy a Partner in our Private Client team.

Users are asked to enter an estimated value of their total assets and if this exceeds the threshold for IHT, they are directed to further information on reliefs which could reduce their IHT liability.

Are probate lawyers, like myself worried? Not yet!

The HMRC calculator is aimed at those individuals who are considering preparing their own will or are appointed as an executor or administrator of an individual’s estate, if the deceased’s death was after 6 April 2012.

I agree with Kim Jarvis, Canada Life’s technical manager, quoted by FT Adviser: “The tool is not a calculator and clearly doesn’t replace good financial planning or the role of advice, but it is a welcome development by HMRC.

“It does not calculate the amount of IHT an individual would have to pay or inform HMRC about the estate’s final value.

“IHT is by its very nature a complex area of financial planning, but this tool should prove valuable to those who are unfamiliar with the process and the forms requiring completion.

Probate during the Covid-19 pandemic

There have been a number of other digital developments relating to estates and probate applications during the pandemic.

Reported here via the Open Access Government website, Philip Turvey, Executive Director at Anglia Research, a probate genealogy company, also known as heir hunting, says, “Many probate firms locate the rightful next-of-kin of an unclaimed estate by looking through historical records and re-constructing family trees. The pandemic has meant many probate firms have had to move away from more traditional methods of locating rightful heirs and adopt entirely new, virtual methods.

“This shift from in-person to digital took place quickly as the pandemic was causing more people to die intestate and with no known relatives, meaning probate genealogist services were in high demand. [We] surveyed all local authorities in England and Wales and found the number of people dying in this situation and where a public health funeral was conducted, rose by 60% between March and May last year. Our Unclaimed Estates Index found there were 216 and 176 unclaimed estates in Birmingham and Camden, respectively, in December 2020.”

Both of these developments have taken place during the pandemic which has changed many aspects of our lives, but as one who deals with Probate and Inheritance Tax matters on a daily basis my guidance has not changed. I would always recommend seeking out expert professional help on these matters, since rectifying any mistakes at a later date, where this is indeed possible, is invariably more expensive.

Our friendly experts regularly advise on all of the above, as well as more complex (and more straightforward) circumstances. For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our team, please email privateclient@bishopandsewell.co.uk or contact us on 020 7631 4141 and ask to speak to the Private Client team.

About Helen Langworthy:

Helen joined Bishop & Sewell in 2011 and has extensive experience in dealing with all aspects of private client work, including drafting wills, the administration of estates, the creation and administration of trusts and general lifetime tax planning for family wealth.

Helen is a Full Member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), a worldwide professional association for practitioners dealing with family inheritance and succession planning. STEP members help families plan for their futures, from drafting a will to advising on issues concerning international families. Full STEP members, known as TEPs, are internationally recognised as experts in their field, with proven qualifications and experience.

Specialist areas:

  • Estate planning
  • Administration of Estates including the resealing of Foreign Grants of Probate
  • The creation of trusts, specifically those relating to UK residential property.

Category: Blog, News | Date: 2nd Aug 2021


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