Inheriting ISAs: what you need to know

The Treasury has moved quickly to make inheriting ISAs easy

Updated: 
last will and testament

Savers cheered at the news from chancellor George Osborne that individual savings accounts (ISAs) will be able to be inherited by a spouse.

However, there is still some confusion over how it will work and, to give credit where it is due, the Treasury has made swift changes to the rules in order to all ISAs to be inherited without an administrative headache.

So what will happen to your ISA when you die? The surviving spouse inherits their deceased partner's total ISA allowance as a one off. This means that if your spouse had saved £100,000 over their lifetime into their ISA the survivor will have a one-off £100,000 allowance added to their own annual ISA allowance.

There were fears that on inheriting the ISA the surviving spouse would have to sell all their partner's investments and reinvest them. However, the Treasury has confirmed that the ISA money can remain invested so the surviving spouse won't have to pay the cost of selling and reinvesting as well as risk time out of the market.

There were also question marks over whether the tax breaks offered by ISAs would continue in the time between the saver dying and their spouse inheriting the ISA. The Treasury has signalled that it will extend tax breaks during this period but we are still waiting for confirmation on whether there will be a set time frame for the extension as estates can take a long time to settle after a death.

Whether inheriting an ISA will be as easy as switching the name on the savings account is as yet unknown and savers will have to act carefully to ensure they keep the tax breaks the savings accounts offer.

Further changes

One other question has focused on whether unmarried partners or children will be allowed to inherit ISAs as they can inherit pensions as part of the changes was to bring ISA tax perks further in line with pension tax perks.

Taxation and pension experts believe the inheritance bonus won't be extended. The argument is that married couples and civil partners save together rather than individually and should therefore be able to keep the tax benefits of ISAs.

Inheriting ISAs is a great idea and will give bereaved spouses one less problem to worry about when dealing with an estate. However, it will be worth getting advice and getting someone to talk you through the process.

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