Being a grandparent is an exciting time of life. You get all the enjoyment of doing fun activities with your grandchildren but can hand them back at the end of the day. Part of that pleasure is knowing that you can help them financially. Often you’re at a stage of your life where you’re comfortably off and in a position where you want to give a helping hand to the next generation.
The plus side of this is that you get the opportunity to make a real difference to your grandchildren’s lives. The downside is that the regulations around inheritance tax (IHT) can be confusing and the red tape overwhelming at times. By taking steps to find out what the rules are though, you can make life easier for family members and still be confident that you have enough money for your own retirement dreams.
One important consideration is the timing of your gift. If there’s a new arrival in the family, the financial needs will be very different than if it is to help older children. For example, the priority may be to help the newborn’s family move to a more spacious home or to help with private school fees for a primary school-aged child. Later on, it may be to help with driving lessons, pay for school or university fees or enable them to get on the housing ladder. You may decide you want to leave your money to your grandchildren in your will, in which case it is vital to plan your giving in advance in a tax efficient way.
IHT will be levied on your estate at 40% when you die if it exceeds the nil-rate band, so if you’re giving money away now that will have an impact later. The nil-rate band is currently a threshold of £325,000 for the value of your estate. Anything above that will be taxed. (Although not until 2nd death for married couples/civil partners) Making monetary gifts can take the money out of the ‘IHT net’ but remember this only applies if you live for the seven years after you made the gift. It’s worth exploring some extra allowances such as being able to give £3,000 of gifts per tax year (your annual exemption) as well as an allowance for small gifts and wedding/birthday gifts.
There are a number of alternatives to make your gift. If the money is needed before age 18, a trust structure is a tax-efficient way to give money, while still giving you some control on how it is used. A Junior ISA can also be a good option as it grows tax-free, building up a fund for driving lessons or university fees. You can’t open the JISA on your grandchild’s behalf but you can pay into it up to their annual limit, currently £4,260 (In total, i.e. including contributions made by other parties such as parents) If they’re older, you might want to consider a Lifetime ISA for a housing deposit. Again, you can’t open it for them as a Lifetime ISA can only be opened by someone between the ages of 18-39 but if your grandchild opens one, it’s a way for them to save up to £4,000 a year and get a 25 per cent government bonus on top. * A JISA is not available to a child owning a Child Trust Fund (CTF) unless the CTF is first transferred to a JISA and the CTF closed, however the Grandparent could pay into the CTF as an alternative.
Whatever you opt for, you’ll have the feel-good factor of helping the next generation in a way that is right for both you and them.