How Much Tax Do You Pay on Probate in the United Kingdom?

tax on probate

In the UK and in many other countries, when someone dies, their estate may be subject to tax. In most cases, that tax due is Inheritance Tax (IHT) which the family of the deceased pay on their ‘inheritance’. However, in some cases, if the deceased’s estate is extensive and incorporates overseas investments or properties, a family business or anything else that ‘earns’ an income, Capital Gains Tax (CGT) may also be applicable.

How much tax on probate the family pays on a deceased’s estate largely depends on its total value. The estate includes any pay-outs on life assurance policies, investments, rental properties and cash in the bank. It may be that the deceased’s estate is not liable to pay tax on probate if the value of the estate is below HMRC’s tax threshold.

In addition, following changes to the way Inheritance Tax is calculated from January 2022, the reporting of IHT has been simplified. So, how much tax on probate do you pay in the UK?

What is Inheritance Tax and Capital Gains tax on probate?

Inheritance Tax is a tax on the value of the estate of someone that has passed away. The deceased’s beneficiaries/family is liable to pay tax at a rate of 40% on the estate’s value, over and above the UK IHT tax threshold of £325,000.

For example, if the deceased’s estate is valued at less than £325,000 no IHT is payable to HMRC. However, if the deceased’s estate is valued at £400,000, the beneficiaries/family/executors will be liable for tax on the amount above the tax threshold, i.e. £75,000.

Capital Gains tax on probate is not usually required on the transfer of assets to beneficiaries. However, any assets acquired by the deceased’s estate after death could be liable for CGT; i.e. it is a tax on ‘gains’ usually associated with residential property but it can also be applied to investments and businesses. This means that when the beneficiary or executor sells or gives away the asset, CGT is due on the ‘gain’ in the value of the asset between the date of the deceased’s death and when the asset was sold or given away.

For example, if the value of the deceased’s property was £200,000 upon death, but by the time it was sold, the value had increased to £250,000, the estate (beneficiaries or family) may have to pay CGT on the ‘gain’ of £50,000.

What is the Inheritance Tax threshold?

There is currently only one threshold of £325,000. This is known as the ‘nil-rate band’ (NRB), and an estate that is valued below this threshold does not pay any tax on probate. Estates above the threshold are liable for Inheritance Tax at a rate of 40%. Let’s give you an example:

If your estate is worth £600,000, your IHT is calculated as follows:

£600,000 – £325,000 = £275,000

£275,000 x 40% = £110,000 tax on probate due

Therefore, the deceased’s beneficiaries receive £325,000 + £165,000 (the remainder value of the estate once tax has been paid), which equals £490,000.

However, there are several situations where the Inheritance Tax threshold is different.

  • Married and civil partnerships – if you are married or in a civil partnership and leave your entire estate to your spouse or partner, if one partner dies first, there is no tax to pay, and in most cases, the nil rate band threshold won’t be affected either. This means that the living spouse can add the unused balance of their deceased spouse’s/partner’s threshold to their own, essentially doubling their threshold when they die. However, if the spouse/partner leaves a part of their estate to other beneficiaries, like children, or made a lifetime gift seven years prior to their death, and the estate is of high enough value, Inheritance Tax is due, and a proportion of the nil rate band threshold may be taken.
  • Leaving a property – if you are married or in a civil partnership and leave the family home to your living spouse or a direct descendent, i.e. a child or grandchild only, in its entirety, under current rules there is a further £175,000 tax-free allowance but only if the value of the property is under £1 million. Anything above this value and the allowance drops significantly. The good news is that any unused tax allowance balance can be added to the living spouse’s allowances on their death.

Do spouses and civil partners pay a tax on probate?

In most cases, spouses and civil partners can leave their estate tax-free. In addition, the surviving spouse or partner can add any unused tax-free allowance to their own tax allowances. So, in reality, the deceased can leave their spouse/partner as much as £650,000, or £1 million if it includes a property, without them having to pay any tax on probate.

However, if the deceased spouse/partner used most or all of their tax-free allowance by leaving a proportion of their estate to a direct descendent, the above does not apply.

Tax-free gifts and trusts

It is possible to make gifts to spouses/partners or to charities, which may be exempt from tax, but it does depend on when the gift was made. If it was given at least seven years prior to death – if it’s not gifted to a business or a trust – there will be no tax to pay on the gift. However, if the person dies before the seven years, there will be a tax levy to pay and how much depends on when the person dies during that seven-year period. This is known as IHT taper relief on potentially exempt transfers (PETs).

It is also possible to put assets into a trust that is left to a beneficiary after death. Whilst a trust doesn’t exempt the estate from paying tax on probate, it can go some way to reducing the amount of Inheritance Tax paid. This is because any assets held in a trust, and managed by appointed trustees on behalf of the beneficiaries, are owned by the trust, not the trustees or the person who set up the trust. If you live beyond seven years from the date the trust was established, those assets are not included in the estate upon death and may be tax-free. Instead, a 20% IHT tax levy is imposed when you set up the trust, and every ten years, the assets are revalued, and 6% IHT is paid at the time, minus the nil rate band threshold of £325,000.

Whenever you are writing a will, it’s always important to understand the tax implications on your beneficiaries, family and executors first.

At Probates Online, we offer a will writing service or a Complete Estate Service to help you through the probate process and estate administration upon the death of a loved one. If you are looking for advice on inheritance tax, gifts or trusts, or need to apply for Grant of Probate, Letters of Administration or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.

How to Value an Estate for Inheritance Tax and Report Its Value

Inheritance Tax

When someone dies and the executors of the deceased’s will apply for probate, or relatives apply for letters of administration if there is no will, part of the process is to determine whether any Inheritance Tax (IHT) is due to be paid. 

To calculate the inheritance tax value, the deceased’s assets and/or debts need to be identified and confirmed, their estate needs to be valued and this figure needs to be reported to HMRC. However, if the deceased’s estate is valued below the IHT threshold, which is currently £325,000, no tax will need to be paid. But the value still has to be reported to HMRC to confirm nil tax.

If there is tax due, the IHT forms must be completed within one year and the tax must be paid, or part paid, within six months of the date of death. If you’re not a solicitor, it can be difficult to understand how to value an estate for IHT purposes and which forms to complete to report the estate’s value to HMRC. So, let’s look at this in more detail.

Why does a deceased’s estate need to be valued?

There are several reasons why a deceased’s estate must be valued:

  • To complete the probate application.
  • To determine if IHT is due and if so, how much must be paid to HMRC.
  • To determine if any individual assets are subject to Capital Gains Tax (CGT), if they have increased in value since the date of death.
  • To ensure any debts are paid before the estate can be distributed correctly and according to the deceased’s wishes.

IHT is paid on the net estate value i.e. after all debts, including funeral expenses, have been deducted and only if it is above the IHT threshold. Once this has been determined, the net inheritance tax value is reported to HMRC to calculate whether any tax is due and, if so, how much.

New regulations were introduced by HMRC in January 2022 that not only simplify the reporting process, but also increase the thresholds. This means that more of a deceased’s estate will be exempt from tax liabilities.

The IHT threshold is currently £325,000, which hasn’t changed. This figure needs to be deducted from the estate’s total value before calculating any tax liability. There may also be other tax exemptions, such as the residence nil rate band tax allowance (it could be double the IHT threshold) if the deceased’s home or some of their estate is bequeathed to their children or grandchildren.

The new changes to threshold limits mean that any part of the estate left to a living spouse or a registered charity is exempt from IHT as long as the estate is valued at less than £3 million. In addition, any assets held in a trust or a lifetime gift (as long as the gift was made seven years prior to death) valued at less than £250,000 are not liable for IHT.

Steps to calculate the inheritance tax value of an estate

There are three main steps that need to be completed to calculate the inheritance tax value of a deceased’s estate.

  1. Identify the deceased’s assets and/or debts – before you can calculate the estate’s value, and therefore inheritance tax due (if any), a list of all the deceased’s assets, debts, trusts or lifetime gifts must be drawn up. For example, pension and life insurance policies, mortgage payments, business assets, money in bank or building society accounts, property and/or land, furniture, jewellery or artwork, trusts, shares and investments, loans and HP agreements, as well as any outstanding bills. In many cases, some of these details may not be easy to find so you’ll become a bit of a detective. Alternatively, hiring a probate solicitor will help the process and they are also able to write to organisations on your behalf. You will need to submit a copy of the deceased’s death certificate and prove that you have the legal authority, i.e. are the executor or a court appointed representative if there is no will, to request and receive information that is confidential.
  2. Determine the estimated value of assets – once you have the full and final list, the next step is to determine the open market value of each asset. With insurance policies, mortgage companies, banks, building societies, trusts, shares and investments, loans, outstanding bills and any other creditors, the provider will give you an up-to-date value of the asset or debt. You will also be able to discuss payment terms and get any added interest stopped. For lifetime gifts, the value at the time of gifting is used unless the person receiving the gift benefited from it; then the value at the date of death is required. You will also need to value any joint assets, even if it is being passed on to the living joint owner.
  3. Having a property and its contents valued – this part of the process is more complicated than the above assets. The value placed on the deceased’s property and/or land as well as the contents must be a realistic selling price should it come to the open market at the time of death. There are two parts to the valuation:
    1. Ask a local estate agent or surveyor that is experienced in valuing property for inheritance tax purposes to visit and value the property and/or land. The reason you need to ensure they are experienced in providing an IHT valuation is that HMRC will ensure the valuation is examined by the District Valuer Services (DSV) to determine the valuation’s accuracy. If they feel that it is too low or too high, they may request further evidence to support the given valuation.
    2. Firstly, make a list of the contents, including jewellery, furniture, artwork and cars, then carry out searches online to determine the average value for the items if they were being sold. However, keep in mind that you are comparing used items with new items. For some items that are more expensive, such as jewellery and artwork, it is worth getting a professional valuation. If you feel this is too big a task, a probate solicitor can liaise with a house clearance company to carry out this task for you.

Reporting inheritance tax value to HMRC

Prior to January 2022, estates that required a grant of probate had to complete a full inheritance tax return (IHT400) or if the estate was exempt, a summary inheritance tax return (IHT205).

However, new regulations (after 1st January 2022) mean that representatives of a deceased’s estate that is exempt from IHT, known as excepted estates, and does not require grant of probate don’t have to complete an inheritance tax return.

Instead, the executors (solicitors or representatives of the estate) will need to make a declaration to HMRC to confirm the value of the estate as part of the probate application process. That said, if the deceased’s estate is complex, such as including foreign property, asset trusts in excess of £1 million or several lifetime gifts, a full IHT return will be required.

At Probates Online, we offer a Complete Estate Service to help you through the probate process and estate administration upon the death of a loved one. If you are looking for advice on inheritance tax, gifts or trusts, or need to apply for Grant of Probate, Letters of Administration or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.

Inheritance Tax: How Does It Affect You?

Inheritance Tax

When you pass away and leave assets to family or any other beneficiaries, they are liable for paying tax on those assets, known as Inheritance Tax (IHT).  However, it is possible to significantly reduce the amount of IHT payable or, indeed, pay nothing at all depending on the value of any assets, known as your estate.

How much is inheritance tax?

How much IHT your beneficiaries pay largely depends on the value of your estate, or your assets which include any investments, life insurance policy payouts, property and even cash in the bank. 

If the total value of your assets is less than £325,000, your beneficiaries will not be paying any inheritance tax.  But if your assets value is above this threshold, they will pay 40% on the value of the assets above the threshold.  For example, if your estate is valued at £500,000 and your threshold is £325,000, you will only pay IHT on the estate value above the threshold, i.e. £175,000.

However, there are exceptions to this basic rule.

  • If you leave your entire estate that’s above the £325,000 threshold to your spouse or civil partner, charity or a community amateur sports club, your beneficiaries will not pay IHT.
  • If you bequeath your home to your children, and this includes children that are fostered, adopted or stepchildren, the threshold may increase to £500,000.
  • The IHT rate will drop to 36% on some of your assets if you choose to bequeath at least 10% of your estate’s net value to charity.

Inheritance tax for married couples

If you are in a civil partnership or are married the thresholds are different. If you die before your spouse:

  • Assets left to your spouse/civil partner are exempt from IHT, if they are living in the UK.
  • Any assets above the threshold are passed on to your spouse and added to their threshold, as well as their main residence allowance.  So, potentially, your spouse’s/civil partner’s tax-free threshold level could be as much as £1 million.

Inheritance tax relief

There are various exemptions and tax reliefs that may apply to your estate, such as the nil rate band (NRB), taper relief and business property relief. 

  • Residence nil rate band (RNRB) – any part of the estate that is over the nil rate band (NRB) – every person’s threshold of £325,000 – that is passed on to the spouse/civil partner, as well as any gifts, can be passed to the surviving spouse/civil partner and is exempt from IHT.  In April 2017, the residence nil rate band was introduced and is an additional amount to the NRB, which can be transferred.
  • Taper relief – it is applicable when inheritance tax is due to be paid on a ‘gift’ that was granted 7 years prior to your death.  Essentially, any gifts passed on before your death are subject to IHT but the longer it is since you made the gift prior to your death, the amount of tax your beneficiary has to pay is based on a sliding scale, i.e. it is tapered.  For example, a gift made 3 years before your death is liable to 40% tax.  Gifts made 7 years before you died are tax-free unless they are part of a trust.  Known as the 7-year rule, you must keep a record of what you gave, how much it is, when you gave it and who you gave it to, and your executors must know these details as well.  However, a ‘gift with a reservation’, i.e. the gift is still in use by you, is considered part of your estate.
  • Business property reliefbusiness property tax relief can reduce the amount of IHT paid on any business assets, such as shares, buildings or any business machinery.  If you own a business, or are a partner in a business, it forms part of your estate on your death and your beneficiaries will be liable for tax on that asset.  However, it is possible to reduce the amount of tax paid by claiming business relief by 50%, or even 100%.  For example, if you are a sole trader and bequeath your business to family that’s valued at £400,000, the £325,000 threshold applies and is eligible for business property relief on the remaining £75,000; therefore, zero tax is paid. However, if you only owned 50% shares in the business, i.e. voting rights, or 50% shares in an unlimited company, i.e. 50% of the land, buildings and/or equipment/machinery, only 50% business relief is claimable. 

How do gifts work in terms of inheritance tax?

There are some ‘gifts’ you can make prior to your death which will reduce the level of inheritance tax payable and, in some cases, mean no tax is paid.  A gift includes:

  • Personal items, such as jewellery or antiques.
  • Household items, such as furniture.
  • Property, including a house, buildings or land.
  • Stocks and shares, as listed on the London Stock Exchange.
  • Unlisted shares, i.e. shares in an unlimited company, if you have held them for less than 2 years prior to your death.
  • Money; this also includes money that remains should you sell a gift for less than it is worth.  For example, if you sell your property to a spouse or child for less than the market value, the monetary difference is considered a gift.

Gifts do not include any assets you leave to beneficiaries in your will.  Those assets, such as cash in the bank, possessions and any other property, are considered part of your estate and are valued accordingly for inheritance tax purposes.

Any gifts to your spouse/civil partner during your lifetime are exempt from inheritance tax as long as you are legally married or in a civil partnership, and they permanently live in the UK.  In addition, any gifts to political parties or charities, if they are before your death, are exempt from IHT.

Every person is allowed to give away up to £3,000 worth of gifts in any tax year and they won’t be added to their estate, and therefore be liable for IHT.  Known as an ‘annual exemption’, you can gift £3,000 to one person or distribute the amount between different people.  You are also allowed to carry it forward to the next tax year, but only for a single year.

This inheritance tax exempt rule also applies to annual birthday or Christmas gifts, up to the value of £250, as well as gifts towards a wedding or civil partnership ceremony.

At Probates Online, we are able to offer a professional probate service online that is efficient and affordable.  If you are an executor of a will and need to apply for a Grant of Probate or would like to take advantage of our entire Estate Administration service, visit our website for more information or contact us today.