Inheritances make up 44% of low earners' wealth

Inheritances make up 44% of low earners' wealth

Inheritances received by those in the lowest wealth quintile made up 44 per cent of their net total wealth, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The data published today (30 October) showed the average inheritance was £11,000 from July 2014 to June 2016.

But inheritances peaked among those aged 55 to 64 years, with the average received by this group standing at £33,000.

Some 7 per cent of people in this age segment received an inheritance in the past two years, which compares to 4 per cent of the overall population.

The ONS data also showed most people were using their inheritance wisely: 49 per cent saved or invested it and 8 per cent paid off debt, while 30 per cent spent it.

The average gift was £2,000 and most likely to be received by 25 to 34 year olds, among whom 11 per cent had received a gift or loan above £500 in the last two years.

Rachael Griffin, tax and financial planning expert at Quilter, said these figures revealed anticipated trends, including "the age that people can expect to inherit is edging into mid-60s, while those aged 25 to 34 are most likely to get gifts or loans from family, consistent with the rise of the bank of mum and dad as one of the prime lenders for first-time buyers".

Nathan Long, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, noted soaring property prices meant inheritances remained an incredibly important source of wealth, particularly for the poorest households.

He said: "Unfortunately the trickle down of monies through the generations is difficult to plan for and can’t be relied upon. With people living longer and inheritances likely to be increasingly gobbled up with paying for social care, we could see their importance dented in the longer term.

"While people are generally using their inheritances wisely, it is important they plan for their own financial future by squirrelling away as much as they can afford as early on as they can, as this will provide valuable flexibility in later life."

Ms Griffin, on the other hand, said people were living longer and retired households were at historic highs in terms of the wealth they held relative the working-age population.

"One way to ease the pressure on the younger generations is to allow wealth to filter down more easily," she argued.

The latest figures from HMRC showed £5.2bn was paid in IHT in 2017/18, the most since the current system was introduced in 1986 and it followed eight years of back-to-back increases in the amount paid in IHT.

The annual inheritance tax (IHT) gifting allowance is "living in the past", having been frozen since 1981 at £3,000, Ms Griffin said.

She added: "Had the annual allowance tracked inflation, it would be permissible to gift £10,932.20 per tax year in 2017, according to the Bank of England inflation tracker."

The review on inheritance tax will be published before the end of the year by the Office of Tax Simplification, despite not being mentioned during yesterday's Budget.