More than 60% of Britons do not take advice about how best to minimise their inheritance tax (IHT) liabilities, according to research from Bradford & Bingley.
Almost 30% wrongly believe they could pay an IHT bill by simply deducting it from their inheritance while inheritance recipients must almost always pay it upfront.
Only 32% would count their estate as liable for IHT, although more houses are approaching the £300,000 IHT threshold.
The research also shows 33% do not know items or assets covered in a will are liable to IHT and only 52% could correctly identify the current rate of IHT as 40%.
Of those who haven't taken advice to plan their estate, 12% said this was because they had already written a will, although the reality is that having a will has little bearing on minimising a person's IHT liabilities.
Men are typically left better off than women, with 23% of men and 14% of women having inherited items and assets worth upwards of £50,001 in the past.
The research also found that 36% of men were more likely to be planning to leave an inheritance of greater value than the IHT threshold of £300,000, compared to 20% of women.
Men and women's differing attitudes towards death were also revealed by the research, which found that 14% of women and 8% of men haven't made a will because they don't want to have to think about death.
Overall, six out of 10 people aged between 35 and 50 have not made a will, with two thirds saying they have not got round to it.
Andrew Stead, head of wealth at Bradford & Bingley, says: "Too many Britons are burying their heads in the sand and failing to take advice about how best to plan their estate. This could mean 40% of everything owned over and above £300,000 bypassing loved ones on their death and instead going straight to the Inland Revenue.
"While it's no surprise that planning for death is not at the top of most Britons' to-do list, by seeking advice about how to mitigate against IHT and planning their finances in a tax-efficient way, people can protect their hard-earned assets and protect their families from the burden of financial uncertainty in the future."
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