The dilemma over leaving an inheritance for your children - Sarah Coles

Who thought we’d ever care so much about what Daniel Craig does with his money?

Some of us choose not to give to children, because they’re older and have made their way in the world, so we plan to leave money to grandchildren instead.

His comments that inheritance is ‘distasteful’ and his children won’t be getting a huge legacy from him has divided the nation.

We’re at loggerheads over whether leaving money to children gives them a head start in life or destroys their ambitions.

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Many of the big names saying their children won’t inherit a fortune are (unsurprisingly) rich and famous. It’s not just Daniel Craig but everyone from Elton John to Simon Cowell.

It’s easy for them to say their children will only have enough to ‘keep a roof over their head’, because it essentially means they might just keep their inheritance to a million pounds or two.

But there are plenty of people with far more usual levels of wealth who share their views. We asked 2,000 people, if they planned to leave the bulk of their money to their children when they passed away, and only 82 per cent said they would.

In Yorkshire and the Humber this is higher, with 89 per cent planning to leave their money to their children.

That still means 11 per cent of people in the region will leave their money elsewhere.

This isn’t as dramatic as it first looks, because in many cases it’s the result of careful financial planning.

Some of us choose not to give to children, because they’re older and have made their way in the world, so we plan to leave money to grandchildren instead.

This not only helps them with incredibly difficult challenges, like buying a home of their own, but also avoids the risk that their parents die before spending their inheritance, so the cash could end up facing inheritance tax twice.

In other cases, when our children are young, we plan to leave the bulk of our estate to whoever we have nominated as guardians for those children, so they can look after them if both parents were to pass away.

Yet still some people make an active choice to leave their offspring out of their will.

One in 20 people say they’ll give the bulk of their money to charity instead. This is particularly common among younger parents, aged 18 to 34.

This may owe something to the fact that their children are younger, so their ideals haven’t yet bumped up against the horrible reality of the financial challenges their children will face later in life.

When we asked people why they didn’t want to leave money to their children, alongside those who said they wanted to spend the cash themselves, the most common answer was that they wanted their children to make their own way in the world – given by 12 per cent.

This was followed by wanting their children to understand the value of hard work, not wanting them to be counting the seconds until their parents die, and thinking that the money could do more good elsewhere.

People in Yorkshire and the Humber particularly disliked the idea of their children waiting for them to die.

However, keeping your offspring from eagerly awaiting your death can be done without cutting them off.

Giving gifts during your lifetime means you have control over when and how your loved ones receive them.

You also get to see them enjoy their gifts, and there are tax benefits too.

You get a gift allowance of £3,000 each year that falls out of your estate immediately for inheritance tax purposes. You can also give small gifts of up to £250, specific gifts for family weddings and unlimited regular gifts from income.

Outside the gifting allowances, you can make gifts of any size (known as potentially exempt transfers) and as long as you live for at least seven years after handing it over, it falls outside of your estate for inheritance tax purposes.

If you die before the seven years are up, and your estate is subject to IHT, you will have to pay tax on some of this. However, as long as you live for at least three years, the tax will be tapered.

You need to be completely clear you’re giving something away. If you still benefit from the present, the taxman doesn’t count it as having been given away at all.

For example, if you were to give your house to your children but continue to live in it rent free, it would still be considered part of your estate and there would be no IHT benefit.

Of course, not everyone is looking for a better way of giving: some don’t want their children to have a thing.

The research showed that one in 20 people don’t believe in inheritance at all, while another one in 20 admit they don’t really like their children, so they don’t want them to benefit from their death.

And if that’s how you feel, there’s really nothing stopping you from spending all your money while you can.

By Sarah Coles personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown

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