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Anne Robinson has been giving money away to avoid inheritance tax on her £50 million fortune

TV presenter Anne Robinson has given away most of her £50 million fortune to avoid inheritance tax.
AUTHOR: Graham Southorn

Anne Robinson, the TV personality best known for hosting the BBC quiz The Weakest Link, has been using gifting rules to avoid inheritance tax on her estate. It’s a practical example of how you can mitigate inheritance tax by planning ahead.

In an interview, Anne said she’d amassed a £50 million fortune after a highly successful media career, first as a newspaper columnist and then a TV presenter.

But as widely reported in the media, she’s been giving away money to her family. That way, she’s ensured they will inherit more by avoiding an enormous inheritance tax bill.

The Implications of Inheritance Tax

There’s no doubt that the inheritance tax on her estate would have been substantial. For starters, as a divorcee, she would not enjoy the same tax breaks as married couples or civil partners.

Assuming she doesn’t marry again, she is entitled to pass on £325,000 free of inheritance tax. This threshold is called the nil rate band.

She also own a property and has a daughter and two grandchildren. If that property passes to her lineal descendants when she dies, her executors would be able to claim an additional allowance of £175,000. This is called the residence nil rate band.

So under current rules, Anne could pass on up to £500,000 without any inheritance tax being due. Any amount above this threshold is subject to inheritance tax, and the standard rate is 40%.

On an estate worth £50 million, that still leaves a tax bill in the region of £120 million if she’d done nothing.

Anne Robinson’s Approach

Anne Robinson’s decision to distribute her wealth during her lifetime was a strategy to minimise inheritance tax. By gifting assets to her family before her death, she can effectively reduce the size of her estate, and the taxable amount along with it.

This approach is perfectly legal under current UK tax laws but the key is planning ahead. The person giving the gift has to live for seven years afterwards, and only then will the value of that gift falls outside of their estate.

The value you give away could be any amount – even millions of pounds. But you have to survive seven years after making it. Anne Robinson is now 79 years old, so it makes sense that she’s already made the gifts.

The seven-year-rule explains why this type of gift is called a Potentially Exempt Transfer (PET). It only has the potential to be exempt at the time you make it. Seven years must pass by before it really is exempt.

But potentially exempt transfers (PETs) are not the only legally permitted form of lifetime gift.

Types of Lifetime Gifting

Lifetime gifting can be an effective means of reducing inheritance tax liability if you stick within the rules. Some of the legally permitted types of gifting are:

  1. Annual Exemption: Individuals can gift up to £3,000 each year without incurring inheritance tax. This exemption can be carried forward for one year if unused.
  2. Gifts from Income: Regular gifts made from surplus income, rather than capital, can also be exempt, provided they do not affect the donor’s standard of living.
  3. Potentially Exempt Transfers (PETs): Larger gifts may qualify as PETs, becoming exempt from inheritance tax if the donor survives the requisite seven-year period. If the donor dies within seven years, the gifts are taxed on a sliding scale, with the tax rate decreasing over time.

Anne Robinson’s Estate Could Still Be Liable for Inheritance Tax

Even with the planning she’s done so far, it’s possible that Anne Robinson’s family may still not inherit everything free of inheritance tax. It will depend on what she owns when she passes away.

According to The Telegraph:

“The presenter lives in an 18th-century Grade II-listed barn conversion in the Cotswolds. She also owns two homes in New York, one on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and another in The Hamptons.”

The issue for Anne’s heirs is that inheritance tax is assessed on your assets worldwide.

All of the places mentioned are known for their high property prices, so the total value of these homes alone is likely to well exceed her £500,000 tax-free threshold.

So there’s likely to be a lot of inheritance tax on her estate if she still owns the houses in her own name. This may not be the case, of course.

What About “Ordinary” People?

Anne may also receive some rental income from those houses. I’m sure she also enjoys a good pension from her previous jobs, as well as payments from current projects.

So her combined income is probably sufficient to cover her potential future needs such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Care costs
  • Holidays and general lifestyle

Not many of us are in this financial position, of course. So given that we may also need money for these things, is it really wise to give assets away?

The Downsides of Gifting

There are pros and cons to gifting.

On one hand, a gift is final. Once you’ve given something away, you can’t get it back.

What’s also true is that once a person receives a gift, they own it. So if the recipient gets divorced or goes bankrupt, that gift could go out of the window.

On the other hand, if you don’t take action, your estate could be faced with an inheritance tax bill. Your loved ones will inherit less as a result.

What to do?

Fortunately, there are other things you can do.

Other Ways of Mitigating Inheritance Tax

So far, you might have been thinking that a lot of this is academic. Not many of us have three houses and £50 million in the bank!

Fortunately, there are other ways of mitigating inheritance tax that might suit you better. Three of them are:

  • Pensions and inheritance tax-friendly investments recommended by a financial advisor
  • Trusts for rental properties
  • “Whole of life” insurance policies

Another “quick win” is to write Wills that make the most of your inheritance tax allowances.

Playing the Generation Game

While we’re on the subject of inheritance tax, we might as well go the whole hog and think about generational inheritance tax.

In other words, how will inheritance tax affect the next generation, and the one after that?

Think about how much property prices have increased in the last few decades. Now think of your children who may already have a home of their own.

Inheriting from you may push their own estates over the threshold for paying inheritance tax. The upshot: your grandchildren will inherit less.

In fact, over the generations, inheritance tax takes a bigger bite each time, just as property prices seem destined to rise. It would be strange if your house isn’t worth more in 40 years time than it is today, although nobody knows what the future will bring.

So if you’re thinking further ahead, you could look at ways of keeping wealth in the family down through the generations.

One way of doing this would be to put your house in a lifetime trust. When you die, the house could remain in the trust or it could be sold and the money kept in trust.

Either way, the trust is outside of your descendants’ estates so it won’t be counted for inheritance tax.

Professional Help

I can’t stress enough that there is no one-size-fits-all in inheritance tax planning. What works for Anne Robinson may not be right for you.

But if you do nothing, your loved ones could lose out. So take a look at our inheritance tax factsheet and book a free consultation when you’re ready.

We can’t give you tax advice but we can give you information and point you in the right direction. And we can write a Will that makes the most of your inheritance tax-free allowances and protect family wealth for future generations.

Conclusion

Inheritance tax can significantly impact the value of an estate that passes to your heirs. As demonstrated by Anne Robinson’s decision to distribute her wealth during her lifetime, strategic planning can mitigate this impact. By understanding and leveraging available exemptions and regulations, you can ensure a more efficient transfer of assets. Engaging with legal professionals specialized in estate planning is essential to navigate the complexities of inheritance tax and to implement strategies that protect family wealth for future generations.

For further information, download free factsheets on Wills, Trusts, Inheritance Tax, Lasting Power of Attorney and more.

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The information contained in these articles is for general interest purposes only. We take every precaution to ensure that the information is correct at the time of publishing but errors can occur. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, there may be omissions or inaccuracies in the information. Bristol Wills & Estate Planning Ltd is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for any results obtained from the use of this information. You should never rely on the information in these articles as a substitute for professional legal advice, whether from Bristol Wills & Estate Planning or any other legal service or professional.

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