Best way to leave money to a child UK

Best way to leave money to a child UK

It is impossible for a minor to received gifts by a will in English law. As such, the best way to leave money to a child (UK), speaks to the manner in which gifts are held by trustees for the child.


  • Bereaved minor’s trusts are available to children who lose (step) parents.
  • Discretionary trusts may be used to guard against profligacy or divorce longer term.
  • A letter of wishes may be used to guide trustee behaviour.


If a party who is a minor (at the time of death of the testator) is named as the recipient of a gift in a will (and unless otherwise stated) the gift will pass to the will’s trustees to hold on trust for the beneficiary until they reach the age of majority (18). For the avoidance of doubt, it is the executors and not the guardians (appointed by the will), that typically take on the role of trustee.


If a beneficiary is the (step) child of the deceased, the trust which arises may be a ‘bereaved minor’s trust’. From a taxation perspective, Bereaved Minors Trusts are not subject to anniversary and exit charges. Since 2006, ‘bereaved young person’s’ trusts have allowed assets held on trust for those aged 18-25 to receive similarly preferential tax treatment.


In such situations trustees have broad powers to apply capital and income to the benefit of the children named as beneficiaries, under s31 and 32 of the Trustee Act 1925 (TA 1925). Trustees, however, owe a duty of care to the trust and may face difficult decisions around what they can and cannot spend such funds on. One might consider using a professional trustee or simply documenting your wishes around trustee behaviour. You may, for example, wish trustees to co-purchase a larger property in the name of the trust, with the children’s’ guardians, with a view to providing accommodation for them.



Best way to leave money to a child UK

If you wish to exert control over the dispersal of gifts to children over the longer term, a discretionary trust may be considered. This type of trust gives trustees a significant amount of control over how funds are managed and who will ultimately benefit (though you may name beneficiaries).

In order to guide (though critically, not to legally bind), the actions of discretionary trust trustees, a substantial letter of wishes should be made, indicating how the party making the trust wishes the trustees to apply funds.


Discretionary trusts are popular. Amongst the more common applications are those by which testators seek to ‘protect beneficiaries from themselves’. Concerns might centre around a beneficiary’s use of drugs, alcohol or being a spendthrift. The impact of bankruptcy or divorce may also be mitigated. Wealthier clients may simply feel a gift ‘too much’ for a younger beneficiary to handle. Discretionary trusts also allow for ‘generation skipping’ where grandchildren maybe named as beneficiaries.

If you wish to discuss any of the matters raised in this article, contact us now via www.confidencewill for a no-obligation conversation.