Tolkien’s work is still providing his family with a passive income. Could your estate do the same?

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When people think about inheritances, they often view it as a lump sum. But you could leave your loved ones an inheritance that will deliver a passive income, and, in some cases, it’s an option that could improve their financial security.

Take the work of author J. R. R. Tolkien – his family still benefit from the passive income the copyright his work delivers 50 years after he passed away.

More than 80 years after the first edition of The Hobbit was released, Tolkien’s work is still hugely popular. Every year, his works generate tens of millions of pounds in royalties.

In fact, it’s thought Amazon paid as much as $250 million (£198 million) for the right to produce TV shows based on Tolkien’s work in 2017 – that’s 1,000 times more than Tolkien sold the movie and merchandise rights for in 1969. This money goes to the Tolkien estate.

Once you add up royalties from the books, film adaptions, and a range of licenced products, the Tolkien estate provides the author’s descendants with a huge amount of financial freedom.

You don’t have to pen a literary classic to leave your loved ones with assets that could provide them with a passive income.

There are lots of options that may be right for your family. For instance, passing on dividend-paying shares could provide them with an income. Or leaving behind a buy-to-let property is another option.

If you’re worried about how your family will cope financially over the long term or manage a lump sum, an inheritance that delivers an income could put your mind at ease. However, it may not be straightforward and there are some questions to consider first.

1. How would you pass the assets on?

If you want to leave a passive income to your family, there’s more than one way to do so. You should weigh up the pros and cons of the different options, including these three:

  • Gifting during your lifetime: You may want to pass on assets during your lifetime. This could improve your loved ones’ financial security now and mean you can see the benefits of your gift. Before gifting, assessing your own financial security is useful – could taking assets out of your estate now affect your lifestyle or security in the future?
  • Leaving assets in a will: By writing a will, you can state who you want to receive assets when you pass away. Assets would usually be given directly to the beneficiary once the probate process is complete.
  • Placing assets in a trust: If you want to place restrictions on how and when the assets can be used, a trust may provide a solution. For example, you can place assets that will deliver a passive income in the trust, but not allow the beneficiary to sell the assets. Trusts can be complex and it’s important they’re set up with your goals in mind, so legal and financial advice may be useful.

In some cases, you may want to mix the above options and still leave a traditional inheritance. For example, your child may receive a passive income through shares you’ve placed in a trust and receive other assets when you pass away because you’ve named them in your will.

A tailored estate plan allows you to create a solution that suits your goals.

2. What tax could be due on your estate and the income the assets generate?

If the value of your entire estate exceeds certain thresholds, it may be liable for Inheritance Tax (IHT). With a standard rate of 40%, IHT can significantly reduce what you leave behind for loved ones, and you may want to consider which assets your family could use to pay a potential bill.

There are often steps you can take to reduce a potential IHT bill during your lifetime. If IHT is a concern, please contact us to talk about the steps you could take.

As well as IHT, if your family receive an income from the assets, they may need to pay Income Tax on the gains. The rate of tax they pay will depend on other income they receive, such as their salary. So, understanding the tax position of your beneficiaries might be important when you’re deciding how to pass on wealth.

In addition, if they decided to sell the assets, they may need to pay Capital Gains Tax. So, understanding how they would use the assets they inherit could help minimise a tax bill.

3. Does inheriting a passive income make sense for your beneficiaries?

Before you decide to leave loved ones a passive income, it may be useful to discuss your plans with your beneficiaries.

Understanding what their goals and challenges are can help you leave an inheritance that suits their needs. While a passive income may mean they are financially stable, it might not be suitable for other goals. For example, if they want to purchase a home, a lump sum inheritance could make more sense.

Of course, you can pass on passive income assets to your loved ones without restrictions on how they use it. So, they could choose to sell the assets if they’d prefer a lump sum.

You could also involve your family in the estate planning process. It would provide an opportunity to talk about the different options and how they might use an inheritance.

Introducing your loved ones to financial planning could mean they make informed decisions that improve their financial wellbeing in the short and long term.

If you involve your family in the process, you don’t have to share all the details of your financial plan. You can decide which aspects of the plan and assets you discuss.

Get in touch to talk about your estate plan and passing on a passive income

If you want to discuss how you could support your family with a passive income, please contact us.

We can help you understand what your options are and how you could provide long-term financial support to your loved ones through an inheritance. We can also work with children, grandchildren, or other beneficiaries to ensure you’re all on the same page and they get the most out of the gift you leave them.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate will writing, estate planning, or tax planning.


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