The Benefits of Discretionary Trusts

From: Kings Court Trust 

Inheritance Tax (IHT) is a significant concern for many families in the UK. With frozen thresholds and increasing property values, more estates are subject to this tax. This blog explores the essentials of IHT and offers insights into mitigating its impact. While we are experts in estate administration, we do not provide financial advice. Our goal is to assist your clients with the probate process and support partners in delivering comprehensive estate planning services. 

The Current Landscape of Inheritance Tax

Inheritance Tax in the UK is levied on estates valued above the threshold of £325,000, a figure that has been frozen since 2009 and will remain so until at least 2028. The impact of fiscal drag—where inflation and rising property values increase the tax burden—means more estates are now liable for IHT. In the 2022-23 tax year alone, the government collected a record £7.1 billion from IHT receipts, reflecting the growing number of individuals caught in the IHT net due to these stagnant thresholds. 

Estate Planning: Mitigation Strategies

Lifetime Gifting and Trusts


One effective way to reduce the IHT burden is through lifetime gifting. Certain gifts can immediately fall outside your estate for IHT purposes. For instance, annual gifts of up to £3,000wedding gifts of up to £5,000, and multiple smaller gifts of up to £250 per person are exempt from IHT. Gifts exceeding these allowances are tax-free only if the donor survives for seven years after making the gift. 

A great example of this is TV personality Anne Robinson, who reportedly has decided to give away her estimated fortune of £50 million to minimise the amount of IHT payable on her death. However, if she passed away within the next seven years, the IHT she was trying so hard to avoid, would be due, and Anne’s family would be exposed to paying the tax on the gifts that they had received. 

These gifts would also form part of their own estates for IHT purposes, leaving them open to a form of double taxation. There may be reliefs available in certain circumstances, and expert advice would need to be taken at the time to ensure the appropriate relief, such as Quick Succession Relief, is claimed. 

If you have followed our Gifting series on social media, you will know that there are many more considerations when it comes to gifting.  


Trusts also offer a robust solution for estate planning. Trusts allow the transfer of assets while retaining some control over how they are used. They can be particularly effective in managing substantial wealth and ensuring that beneficiaries use their assets wisely. However, setting up and maintaining a trust involves administrative duties and compliance with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) regulations. 

Property Trusts

When a Property Trust is involved, the first thing that we look out for is whether the Trust is drafted correctly within the Will. Occasionally, we find Property Trusts incorrectly drafted due to the life tenant and the remainderman being specified as the same person – ultimately, the remainderman will fail when it comes to the life interest ending. 

Nil Rate Band Discretionary Trust (NRBDT) 

An important consideration for this type of Trust is ‘discretion’. When setting up an NRBDT, Trustees have various options available to them (subject to the terms of the Will) – some may decide to appoint out of the Trust completely as circumstances or laws have changed from the time the Will was drafted. We’ve dealt with thousands of NRBDTs as part of the estate administration process, explaining the options in plain English so Trustees can make informed decisions. We guide them through their options and ensure they fully understand their role and responsibilities to cover all beneficiaries and not just the surviving spouse; they need to make responsible decisions (taking independent advice as appropriate), rather than just considering the best Inheritance Tax (IHT) solution. 

Trusts for Minors 

Hopefully, the Trustees are clearly outlined in the Will – whether they are listed in the Executor clause or within a specific Trustee clause. These types of Trusts can be tricky because the minors might be very young at the time it’s produced. However, it’s all about trying to futureproof the Trustees in fifteen years by considering how old they will be and whether they will want to do it at that time – family circumstances can also change. 

The Importance of Professional Advice

Navigating the complexities of IHT requires professional guidance. Wealth planners can offer personalised strategies that align with financial goals and family needs. From leveraging pension schemes to exploring business reliefs, professional advice ensures that estate planning is comprehensive and effective.

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