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Frequently Asked Questions

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InHouse Wills & Probate

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Transferable NRB and RNRB


The TNRB rules apply for anyone passing away on or after 9th October 2007. If they had been previously widowed (at any date, including before 2007) and their late spouse did not exploit all of their own IHT-free allowance (the ‘NRB’ or the equivalent under the tax rules that applied at the time) then the unused proportion of the allowance can be transferred to offset IHT on the 2nd estate.

What does that mean? Well, for most married couples (or legal Civil Partners) it means that the first to pass away can leave everything to the surviving spouse tax-free and then the survivor’s estate can use both NRB allowances to offset against IHT (that is a total of £650,000, based on the current level of the NRB). But be careful if one or both of you are considered ‘domiciled’ outside of the UK, since it brings in some limitations to how this works.

As ever with tax rules there are regulations around this and it does NOT happen automatically. The Executors on the 2nd estate have to claim the transfer. They have to prove that the 1st estate did not use its NRB, which means that they need the paperwork from the administration of the 1st estate. All too often this paperwork is minimal and perhaps was not kept at all. Therefore it is all the more important to handle probate and estate administration carefully and this places an extra burden on whoever acts as Executor - even when it is simply a couple leaving everything to each other.

Even if the Transferable NRB does save IHT, it does nothing to protect family assets against other attacks. That is why it is still important to make appropriate Wills, such as with Trusts, to protect your family’s inheritance.

There are special circumstances where it is possible for a couple exploit 3 or even 4 NRB allowances. This is where either or both of the couple have been previously widowed from an earlier marriage and their first spouse did not exploit their NRB allowance and the couple now create special Wills with special IHT-saving trusts in them. If you think this could apply to you then you definitely need our detailed advice.

From April 2017 there has been an extra tax allowance, the Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB). This can be offset against a qualifying property (normally your main home), provided it is being passed to what are defined as ‘close relatives’ (typically your direct descendants). The allowance started at £100,000, rising to £175,000 by April 2020. If the allowance is unused it could be transferred to the estate of a spouse (or Civil Partner), but the details of how this can be used look to be even more complicated than for the basic Transferable NRB. In particular it would seem even more vital that very detailed records are kept when the first member of a couple passes away. Therefore, executors should seek guidance when dealing with an estate, even if initially it all appears very simple and does not need a grant of probate.

Transferable NRB

When the IHT rules were changed many newspapers said that the Nil Rate Band for couples had doubled. That was misleading and could cause any families to miss out on their full inheritance.