Get free advice from an expert with a 30 minute phone consultation

mm legal, mackinlay and suttie

Can a Will Help Shelter You from Inheritance Tax

Writing a will is incredibly important. It’s how you can ensure your wishes are carried out after you pass away, and they can give you peace of mind as you’ll know that your loved ones will be taken care of after your death. 

However, a will can also be a practical tool that can be used for a range of different purposes. Can a correctly written will give you shelter from inheritance tax? Read on to find out. 

What is a Will?

A will is a legal document that is used to establish your wishes and what you want to happen to your estate after you die. A will determines how your assets such as your property, finances, and possessions are distributed amongst your family, friends, and loved ones, and can also be used if you are looking to leave something to an organisation such as a charity. 

Writing a will is important, it should be done in plenty of time and with the advice and guidance of experienced professionals. 

What is Inheritance Tax?

Inheritance tax is the name given to the tax owed on the estate of someone who has died. In Scotland, inheritance tax is applied at a rate of 40% to the excess of estates valued at over £350,000. If an estate’s value is lower than this total, or if it has been left to a spouse or a civil partner, inheritance tax will not apply. 

Inheritance tax can be substantial and can be the cause of a lot of stress, which is why so many people look to shelter from inheritance tax. There are certain allowances and exceptions in place, but one of the most effective ways to shelter from inheritance tax is by writing a will. Let’s find out more. 

How can a Will Provide Shelter from Inheritance Tax?

One of the simplest ways to use your will to shelter from inheritance tax is to donate a portion of your estate to a charitable organisation. According to UK law, which applies to Scotland too, you could qualify for a reduced Inheritance Tax rate of 36% if at least 10% of your net estate value is left to charity. 

Inheritance tax doesn’t apply if you leave your estate solely to your spouse or civil partner. The only way to do this is to stipulate it in your will. If you were to pass away without writing a will, your estate will be distributed according to a process known as intestacy. 

Intestacy laws stipulate that your spouse or civil partner will get your home, up to a value of £473,000 or a lump sum of that amount if the property is worth more. Your spouse or civil partner will also get up to £50,000 in cash and households good up to a value of £29,000. 

Up to two-thirds of the remainder of your estate will be distributed amongst your children, who will have to pay Inheritance Tax. 

If you want to help your children shelter from Inheritance Tax, it is essential that you write a will. Leaving all of your estate to your spouse or civil partner will ensure they do not have to pay inheritance tax, and they can then distribute the estate amongst your children themselves. 

Other Ways to Shelter from Inheritance Tax

There are other ways to reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax owed by your beneficiaries. 

One way is by giving away parts of your estate as gifts before your death. A rule called Annual Exemption states that gifts of up to £3,000 can be given away tax-free every year. 

As well as Annual Exemption, small gifts of up to £250 can be given to an unlimited number of people tax-free. Gifts for weddings and civil partnerships are also tax-free, with a cap of £5,000 for gifts given to children and £2,500 to grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

However, if you die within seven years of giving a gift, there could be tax incurred. How much will depend on how long after the giving of the gift you died. If you passed away between six and seven years after giving the gift, the tax rate will be 8%, while dying between three and four years after giving the gift will incur a tax rate of 32%. Dying within three years of giving a gift will incur the full Inheritance Tax rate of 40%.


When you pass away, it’s only natural that you want to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of and financially secure. However, Inheritance Tax can leave many of us feeling worried about just how much of our estate will actually go to our beneficiaries. Use the advice we’ve outlined in this guide and write a will that will protect your loved ones and reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax they have to pay.