Child trust funds: do you need to act now?

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Thousands of child trust funds are due to come into the control of 16-year-olds from September 2018 as the oldest accounts mature, giving children control over potentially tens of thousands of pounds.

Every child born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011 was eligible for a child trust fund, introduced by Labour to encourage regular and long-term savings in a tax-free account that the child could control at 16, but not withdraw funds until 18. Payments made into the account had an original upper limit of £1,200 per annum and have since risen to £4,260 this tax year – meaning that by the time children turn 18, some funds could be worth at least £50,000.

While the scheme was replaced with junior ISAs in 2011, the holders of the earliest child trust funds will be turning 16 from the beginning of September 2018 and so will take over responsibility for the account. While they cannot withdraw funds for another two years, they can choose whether to keep them in the same account or move to a different one.

Some of the larger funds could make a huge difference to a young adult’s life by providing the means for a house deposit, money to start their own business or to be put towards higher education. However, many parents will worry that their child will fritter away the fund at their first taste of freedom.

Parents should talk to their children now to discuss what they might want to do with their fund and how they might want to invest it. One option is for the child to put the trust fund into a tax-free junior ISA so that it turns into an adult ISA when he/she turns 18, but proper advice should always be sought on the best decision.

These early conversations will arm children with the best knowledge available to them, and could ward off unwise decisions in two years’ time when they become an adult and gain unfettered control of the assets. While there is very little you can do if your child still fritters away a child trust fund, you may decide that future assets you are planning to leave them are best put in trust, rather than bequeathed outright.

Sarah Phillips TEP is a Tax Partner at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, Newbury, Berks