Did you know that more than half the UK population has not made a will?
Research by independent websites has found that 58% of the adult population has not made a will – and the proportion in older age groups is rising.
Whether it is seen as an admission of one’s own mortality or just one of those things that can be put off till another day, the number of people who have not made a will is alarmingly high. And research indicates that it is getting higher.
Yet those who die intestate place their loved ones in a vulnerable position, never more so than in these days of complicated fractured families.
Even the minority who have a will in place often give insufficient thought to who will be their executor and whether they have executor insurance in place to protect against potential legal action from creditors or tax officials.
Most people, when asked, want to leave money to their loved ones and to ensure that their dependents are taken care of if they die. Yet writing a will is not seen as important. There is a general belief that it can be done later, when they get older. Of those who have not made a will, more than half say it is simply because they have not got round to it.
However, horror stories and cautionary tales abound. Bleak House is one of Dickens’ most popular novels and describes how generations of a family are torn apart by a disputed will. Today, the contested inheritance is a regular plot line in the nation’s soap operas.
And truth can be stranger than fiction. The sad story of Richard Moore, who died suddenly in 2009 and had not made a will, is often cited. He was unmarried and had no children, so his estate was divided equally between his two surviving parents. The tragedy in this case was that the father had abandoned his family when he was only a child, and was essentially a stranger to the deceased.
Furthermore, the onus fell on Moore’s mother as the other beneficiary to track down her ex-husband after all these years and give him what he was due. She ultimately had to sell off much of her portion of Moore’s estate in order to cover the significant costs.
Making a Will
The act of making a will conjures up Dickensian images of bewildering legal documents carefully crafted by solicitors with quill pens. In truth, making a will is as simple or complicated as you make it and as it needs to be.
Most wills are still made through a solicitor. They will talk you through the legal jargon, make sure that everything is as it should be and even store the will in a safe place. For around £85, this seems a reasonable deal, but there are other options too.
High Street newsagents sell off-the-shelf will packs for £10. These are simple and are just as valid as something drawn up by a solicitor as long as they are filled out correctly. Or even this money can be saved by creating your own will from scratch.
The bottom line is that the complexity of your individual circumstances will largely dictate the complexity of your will and therefore the level of professional assistance that you need.
But whatever you decide, do not leave it till it is too late. Get it done today, and make sure your loved ones have the protection they deserve.
Peter Collins is a director at LFC Risk and Insurance, who provide individuals and businesses with insurance and risk management advice.