Changes mean the valuable tax advantages Isas are famed for can continue after death
When an Isa account holder dies, it is possible for their spouse or civil partner to inherit an additional Isa subscription. This allows them to effectively inherit their partner’s Isa, as long as they were living together at the time of death. This extra allowance is the additional permitted subscription.
In April, the rules changed for how Isas are treated on death, as well as how APSs are valued. APSs are a useful way of sheltering inherited wealth within a tax-efficient wrapper, so it is worth knowing exactly what the changes are and how a spouse or civil partner can make the most of their allowances.
Let’s start with how an Isa is treated on death. For anyone who died before 6 April 2018, the tax advantages for any Isa they held stopped from the date of death. The Isa manager had to remove the funds from the Isa wrapper and the estate was liable for tax on any growth in the funds from the date of death.
For deaths on or after 6 April, the Isa manager now treats the Isa as a continuing account, which means it continues to benefit from the tax advantages. This remains until the administration of the deceased’s estate is completed, or three years after the date of death if that is earlier. The executors can also choose to close the Isa account at any time, meaning the tax advantages stop. More about that later.
An Isa value can pass to a surviving spouse or civil partner as an extra Isa allowance – on top of their own yearly subscription
As I have mentioned, where an Isa account holder dies, the value of their Isa account can pass to their surviving spouse or civil partner as an additional Isa subscription allowance – on top of their own current year subscription of £20,000 (in 2018/19). However, it will count as previous year subscriptions for all other Isa purposes.
For deaths between 6 April 2015 and 5 April 2018, this additional allowance is the deceased account holder’s Isa fund value on the date of death. But from 6 April 2018, the APS value can be the Isa fund value either at the date of death or when it stopped being a continuing account.
The spouse or civil partner can choose either value. If the investments value rises, the spouse or civil partner will want to use it at the time the Isa stopped being a continuing account as it will be higher. But if the spouse or civil partner does not want to wait for the estate administration to complete, they can use the Isa value at the time of death.
Money can be taken from the Isa account while it is a continuing account, but no money can be paid in and the funds cannot be transferred.
If the executors choose to take money out of an Isa to pay for funeral expenses, for example, it retains its tax advantages and, when it finally stops being a continuing account, the APS can be either the value at date of death or at the date the Isa is finally closed, subject to the three-year window outlined earlier.
The spouse or civil partner can pay the additional subscription to the Isa manager who held the original Isa, or to another Isa manager (if they accept APSs from a different source – they are not obliged to). Before the spouse or civil partner can pay in the additional subscription, the chosen Isa manager must send the manager of the deceased’s Isa a note saying they are willing to take the APS from the spouse and ask for the APS value.
It is at this point the executors may want to close the Isa (if the estate’s administration is not yet complete) to take advantage of a potentially higher APS value (compared with the value at date of death).
Once the deceased’s Isa manager confirms the APS value, the spouse or civil partner can make their additional subscriptions. The original Isa can be transferred to the new Isa manager but not on an in-specie basis (unless the Isa is kept with the same Isa manager), or the additional allowance could be met from other funds.
The change in rules is good news. It means the valuable tax advantages Isas are famed for can continue after death and that spouses and civil partners can benefit from higher additional subscription levels.
Rachel Vahey is product technical manager at Nucleus Financial