Knowledge Hub | Articles

18 May 2017

Protect your beautiful things

What is a trust?

A trust is a legal mechanism, which can be created during your lifetime or by your will, whereby you place assets under the control of the trustees for the benefit of a beneficiary or class of beneficiaries. It enables you to give away assets but retain some control. Trusts are widely used and offer flexibility and wealth protection, as well as more options than a simple gift.

Will trusts

Every individual has an ordinary nil rate band allowance; this is the amount they can leave on their death free of tax and is currently £325,000.

Prior to 2007, if a married couple left their estate to each other then on the second death they would have ‘lost’ one of the allowances so it became common to insert ‘nil-rate band discretionary trusts’ into the wills to overcome this.

The concept of the transferable nil rate band was introduced in October 2007.  The effect is that the first spouse’s unused allowance can be claimed against the survivor's nil rate band which could be a combined tax free allowance of £650,000.

This ability to transfer the unused allowance makes matters more straightforward; however there are still advantages for such trusts, for example:

  • For care fees planning, if the nil rate band passes to a trust from which the surviving spouse can benefit, then neither the income nor the capital of the trust will be taken into account by the local authority.   
  • To provide protection against insolvency or divorce of the intended beneficiaries.  
  • If there is a chance that the surviving spouse might remarry.
  • To reduce the estate of the surviving spouse to below £2 million.

Residential nil rate band

In April 2017, the new residential nil rate band will be introduced subject to certain conditions. It will eventually be worth £175,000 per person in 2020. Added to the £325,000, this means a new allowance for property owners of £500,000 – or £1m for couples.

To qualify the following conditions must be met:

  • The deceased must own a property (subject to downsizing provisions)
  • The property must be inherited by  direct descendants  
  • The deceased’s estate must be below £2 million in value otherwise the allowance is tapered.  

On the face of it, anyone who has a discretionary trust in their will could lose the additional allowance because the potential beneficiaries are not deemed to ‘inherit’, but with the right advice this can be overcome. B P Collins has the expertise and experience to help with this.

It is worth noting that interest in possession trusts, disabled persons trusts, bereaved minor’s trusts and Age 18 – 25 trusts will qualify.

The nil rate band discretionary trusts can be useful where a combined estate is over £2 million. For example if a couple’s combined estate is worth £2.3 million, and on the first death the nil rate band is left on trust then on the second death the estate is reduced to below £2 million and the allowance would be available.


The tax treatment of trusts is complex. If for example you were creating a lifetime trust and the value of the trust fund exceeds £325,000 there could be an immediate charge to inheritance tax. There are also on-going tax implications every ten years and when funds exit the trust.  While the taxation can be cumbersome, that should not be a reason to avoid trusts as the flexibility and protection that they afford can outweigh the tax implications.

The law and tax regulations are frequently changing and if you already have a will or trust created then we would advise you to review them at least every five years.  If you create a will with B P Collins’ Wills, Trusts and Probate team, they offer a complementary review service for peace of mind.

Lucy Wood

Lucy Wood

Tel: 01753 278650 | 07976 467466

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