Death and Taxes

Death and Taxes

There are two certainties in life – death and taxes. Sometimes at the same time. How lucky we are.

Yes, inheritance tax or IHT is the one we love to hate and HMRC are cracking down on bereaved families who fail to pay the correct amount following their loved ones passing. In the tax year 2021/2022, they billed £326m rectifying IHT underpayments -almost one third up on the previous year.

When we die, we each have a nil rate band of £325,000. This means that the first £325,000 of our estate will be inheritance tax free. If we are passing the family home to our children or grandchildren, we also get the residence nil rate band of £175,000. This means that the next £175,000 of our estate will be inheritance tax free.

When an estate passes from a deceased spouse to their widow(er), this benefits from the spouse exemption. The widow(er) will inherit the entire estate inheritance tax free, and their deceased spouse’s nil rate band(s). A married couple with children then can have up to £1m inheritance tax free.  Certainly, this seems generous, but rising property prices have meant that increasingly estates are exceeding the threshold for IHT liability.  As a result, last year a record £6.1 billion of inheritance tax was paid.

A common reason why bereaved families are not paying enough inheritance tax is because they are not declaring in full the deceased’s assets.  It might be an old painting that’s sat in the living room for years, or a diamond ring that’s been in the family for generations. 

However, HMRC can access a wealth of our personal information using a database called Connect. It will reveal the deceased’s bank accounts, property details and insurance policies. If IHT payments do not match those predicted by HMRC, they may investigate further. If an asset such as a piece of jewellery or fine art is insured, HMRC will know of its existence.  Even if this valuable asset changed hands over 7 years before death thereby rendering it exempt from IHT, HMRC will demand evidence of this. Families should be careful too of undervaluing the deceased’s home. We suggest obtaining at least three market appraisals and taking an average.

Unpaid inheritance tax attracts interest of 6%, a rate that has more than doubled in the past year. Add to this a penalty of anywhere between 20% to 100% of the IHT due depending on whether the family made a genuine mistake or acted deliberately, and their efforts to conceal it.

Families should remember too that if they fail to disclose or undervalue just one asset, inadvertently or not, they will be perceived as less credible by HMRC, who will look to scrutinise the deceased’s estate further.  

If you would like to discuss anything to do with Wills, Trusts or Probate, please contact our Private Client Team who are available for appointments on 01206 577676 or alternatively email us at [email protected]

For more information

Contact us on 01206 577676 or you can email [email protected]

What Happens to a Joint Mortgage When You Divorce or Separate?

What Happens to a Joint Mortgage When You Divorce or Separate?

Nothing happens to your mortgage when you divorce or separate. It doesn’t change.

All parties on a joint mortgage are jointly and severally liable for making sure the full capital and interest payments are made every month, irrespective of who lives in the property or any personal agreements between borrowers.

You and your ex-partner are equally liable for the mortgage – this remains true even if the loan is based on the income of one party or if one party moves out of the property. Your lender has the right to chase both parties, either jointly or individually, for payments – plus any costs, legal fees or loss made upon any possible repossession.

Any refusal to pay the mortgage will impact your ex-partner’s credit file as well as yours. You will both enter into arrears, meaning it will be much harder to secure a mortgage or any form of credit moving forward.

Do you have enough money to pay for your own accommodation having left the family home as well as paying the mortgage?  You might need to explain to your ex- wife/husband that there simply isn’t enough money to pay for two homes and that you may need to sell the family home unless you can work together to resolve the situation.  If she/he is desperate to stay in the home, she/he may need to look into other options.

What Can I Do if My Ex-Partner Stops Paying?

Speak to your lender as soon as your ex-partner indicates they won’t be maintaining their share of the mortgage payment.

Lenders sometimes show leniency on cases where they’re kept updated. Some lenders may even consider reducing your monthly payments by converting to interest-only or extending the term.

Other options if your ex-partner stops paying and a transfer of equity is refused include:

  • Replacing the person coming off the mortgage with someone who can afford it – family money? Equity release?
  • Downsizing by selling the house and repaying the current mortgage – note that neither party can sell without the agreement of the other
  • If your ex thinks you can afford it, she/he might apply for Interim Maintenance but the best thing to do is to start thinking long-term as to what she/he wants and how to achieve it.
  • Getting a financial remedy order to remove your partner from the title deeds but not the mortgage – they would have no further claim to the property but still be liable for the mortgage
  • Can she afford the mortgage on her own?  Remortgaging in your name only if deemed affordable by the new lender

If you would like further information, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01206 577676.

For more information

Contact us on 01206 577676 or you can email [email protected]