New research has revealed that half of UK adults do not have a will. The survey, based on 2,000 UK adults, revealed that one in three (33%) adults who are aged 55 and over do not have a will in place. The region with the highest proportion of people who do not have a will was Scotland (64%).
The research found that the belief that they do not have enough assets, or wealth to warrant making a will (24%) and the belief that loved ones will automatically inherit their wealth regardless (17%) were the top two reasons.
Other reasons included not being able to afford to make one (15%); the belief that they have plenty of time to make one (15%) and not knowing how to write a Will (14%).
Unfortunately, many adults fail to appreciate that without a will, they have no say in how their assets are distributed, and your family, and loved ones also have no voice. The law will decide, this means the rules of intestacy will apply and married, civil partners and relatives can only inherit.
As a wills and probate lawyer, I have consoled and consulted with family members who are grieving and have the added burden of trying to navigate what the wishes of their departed loved ones would have been with other family members. Aside from the distribution of assets which can cause contention, there is consideration around funeral wishes, whether a cremation or burial is desirable, which has caused major disputes between family members.
If an individual has been cohabiting and considered themselves as a common-law partner under the rules of intestacy they cannot inherit. Instead, the partner may be forced to go to court so they could be allocated some assets out of the estate. This process is long, costly and very stressful, particularly if the relatives of the deceased want to defend any such claims.
When there is a valid will, the Grant is issued to the Executors by the Probate Court and it is called a Grant of Probate. If there is no will, the Grant is issued to the next of kin under the Rule of Intestacy and it is called a Grant of Letters of Administration.
Worsening probate delays are leaving many bereaved families waiting even longer to unlock estates, according to the latest official figures from the HM Courts & Tribunal Service. The average wait time for both paper and digital applications from submission to granting of probate was 10.8 weeks in the first three months of the year, up from 9.6 weeks in the final quarter of 2022.
So what can the industry do to encourage more adults to make a will? The worries or reluctance that people have around making a will are universal as we have to face our own mortality. That feels daunting, but it doesn’t have to be at all.
We, as professionals, understand those feelings and we will make the process straight forward and stress free. The service that the legal profession offers these days is moving with the times. There are many cost-effective options to suit every situation and clients may choose how they communicate with their advisor which can be face to face, or via a video call and emails. Every person’s situation is unique so their will is unique to them too.
Written by Donata Crossfield, Wills and Probate Director at RG Law