As a nation we remain buttoned-up when it comes to talking about inheritance. Yet in many cases, it's inadvisable to automatically assume that you don't need estate planning. Almost half of families in the UK say they have never discussed inheritance matters, according to a survey commissioned by Brewin Dolphin. 
One of the main reasons why is that many people assume that estate planning is not for them – that it is only necessary if you are very wealthy.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of us would like to leave a legacy. If you want to ensure your wishes are followed after you die, planning is essential, whatever your circumstances.
It’s good to talk
The first step is to begin a discussion with your family. That isn’t necessarily easy, as inheritance and estate planning can be a highly emotional subject.
Consequently, conversations about inheritance are often put off until they can’t be avoided. A health scare, near death experience or getting older are the most common reasons cited for confronting the issue. But, if you leave it too long, it may be too late to make a difference, warns Liz Alley, head of financial planning operations at Brewin Dolphin.
“The conversation doesn’t have to centre on money or be upsetting; it can be nice to talk to older family members about heirlooms they want to pass on,” she adds.
Once you have broached the subject, estate planning does not need to be complicated. A financial planner can walk you through all the options, helping to ensure you create a plan that is best suited to your family’s circumstances.
Start with the simple things
One of the simplest and most effective forms of estate planning are lifetime gifts. Many people wait until death before passing on their wealth through their wills. But, transferring wealth while you are alive can have a transformative effect on your family’s life – and you get to watch your loved ones benefit.
Gifting money to a younger relative to top up their pension can substantially boost their income when they eventually retire. Paying into an ISA for a youngster can provide them with a useful financial head start in life.
Gifting money during your lifetime can also reduce an inheritance tax (IHT) liability. You can give away £3,000 each year and this will not be subject to IHT. You can give as many gifts of up to £250 per person as you want during a tax year, as long as you haven’t used another exemption on the same person. In addition, parents can gift £5,000 to each of their children as a wedding gift, while grandparents can give £2,500.
Gifts of any size to charities or political parties are also tax free. If a gift is regular, comes out of your income and does not affect your standard of living, any amount of money can be given away and ignored for IHT.
You don’t want to give away money that you might need in the future, for example, to cover care needs in later life. But, our planners can work with you to clarify how much of your wealth is available to pass on to future generations.
If you have a large and complicated estate, they can also help you consider other ways to pass on a legacy, making use of pensions, trusts and life assurance, for example.
Once you have an estate plan in place you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you have laid the firmest foundations for your family’s future. Succession planning doesn’t have to be morbid: it is as much about enabling people to live, as it is about dealing with an estate after death.
 Brewin Dolphin research: Opinium surveyed 4,012 UK adults online between 11th and 17th August 2017.
The opinions expressed in this document are not necessarily the views held throughout Brewin Dolphin Ltd.
Please note that this document was prepared as a general guide only and does not constitute tax or legal advice.
While we believe it to be correct at the time of writing, Brewin Dolphin is not a tax adviser and tax law is subject to frequent change. Tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances; therefore you should not rely on this information without seeking professional advice from a qualified tax adviser.
The information is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment advice.
The information contained in this document is believed to be reliable and accurate, but without further investigation cannot be warranted as to accuracy or completeness.
The value of investments and any income from them can fall and you may get back less than you invested.