Inheritances 'growing rapidly'

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The Independent Online
Each year, about 50,000 people inherit more than pounds 50,000 in property and other assets from parents and relatives, a government study published yesterday has found.

Inheritance has grown rapidly. More and more people are dying owning property and the value of that property rocketed in value throughout most of the 1980s until the boom went into reverse in 1989.

The trend is bringing new wealth to millions of households but it also seems to be increasing the inequality in society. Most inheritors are already comfortably off.

Statisticians at the Department of the Environment have estimated that in 1990, 600,000 families or individuals were inheriting at least pounds 1,000 a year. The total sum involved was pounds 11.3bn - nearly 50 per cent more than the figure for a decade earlier in constant money value terms.

Of this pounds 11.3bn, 44 per cent was in the form of property. The average inheritance was pounds 16,000, with one quarter receiving more than pounds 25,000 and only 2 per cent inheriting more than pounds 100,000. More than half were aged over 44. The majority of houses inherited are soon put on the market, although the drop in house prices has meant increasing delays in selling them.

More than half of inheritors save or invest the money. The next most popular use is to buy a new house, followed by carrying out home improvements and building extensions. Only 1.8 per cent of the money was used to pay off an existing mortgage. The same proportion was used to help others, usually children, to buy or improve a home.

House Property and Inheritance in the UK, HMSO, pounds 25.

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