The Advantages of Transferring Funds to a Gift Trust for UK Domiciled Individuals
Financial planning is an essential aspect of managing one’s wealth and ensuring a secure future for oneself and one’s family. For UK domiciled individuals, there is a myriad of investment options available, but one particularly advantageous route is transferring funds to a gift trust. Gift trusts can provide numerous benefits, including reducing inheritance tax liabilities, protecting assets from third parties, and maintaining control over the funds during the settlor’s lifetime. In this article, we will explore the reasons why a UK domiciled individual should consider transferring at least some of their funds to a gift trust.
Inheritance Tax Mitigation
Inheritance tax (IHT) is a significant concern for many UK domiciled individuals, as it can greatly diminish the amount of wealth passed on to the next generation. As of the knowledge cutoff date in September 2021, the standard IHT rate is 40% on estates above the nil-rate band of £325,000. Additionally, there is a residence nil-rate band of £175,000, which can be applied to a primary residence passed on to direct descendants. However, despite these allowances, IHT can still take a substantial portion of an individual’s wealth.
By transferring funds to a gift trust, an individual can reduce their IHT liability. When a gift is made into a trust, it is considered a potentially exempt transfer (PET) for IHT purposes. If the individual survives for seven years after making the transfer, the funds will be entirely outside of their estate for IHT purposes. If the individual passes away within seven years, the funds will still be subject to a tapered rate of IHT, which decreases each year until the seventh year, when it reaches 0%. This can result in significant tax savings for beneficiaries.
Gift trusts can provide a high level of asset protection. By transferring funds to a trust, the individual effectively separates the assets from their personal estate. This means that the funds are no longer at risk from personal creditors or potential claimants in the event of bankruptcy, divorce, or litigation. This can be especially beneficial for individuals who own businesses or have professions that carry a higher risk of litigation.
Furthermore, the protection provided by a gift trust extends to the beneficiaries. Once the funds have been transferred to the trust, they are no longer considered part of the beneficiaries’ estates, which means they are also protected from creditors or claimants against the beneficiaries.
However, it is essential to note that trust assets will not be safeguarded if the settlor, at the time of making the transfer to the trust, is already facing insolvency or becomes insolvent as a result of the transfer. The Courts, in this scenario, are highly likely to set aside the trust. Additionally, protection will not be provided if the transfer is executed with the purpose of evading creditors. The legislative foundation for this provision in England and Wales can be found in sections 339-423 of the Insolvency Act 1986.
In most cases, transfers executed more than five years prior to insolvency will not be affected. However, if the transfer was carried out with the intention of defrauding creditors, no time limit will apply, and the assets will not be protected.
Control and Flexibility
One of the main concerns individuals have when transferring funds to a trust is the potential loss of control over their assets. However, with a gift trust, the individual (known as the settlor) can maintain a high level of control and flexibility over the funds. The settlor can appoint themselves as a trustee, which allows them to make decisions regarding the investment and distribution of the trust funds. This means that the settlor can continue to manage the funds as they see fit, while still benefiting from the tax and asset protection advantages offered by the trust.
Gift trusts can also be tailored to suit the individual’s needs and objectives. The settlor can establish the trust terms to provide for specific beneficiaries, outline how funds should be distributed, and specify the conditions under which distributions can be made. This allows the settlor to create a personalised and flexible financial plan that takes into account their unique circumstances and goals.