Of the 50 million adults living in the UK, 26 million (52%) do not have a Will. The results of a recent survey commissioned last year by WillAid with a nationally representative sample of 2250 UK adult respondents, between 25 and 84 years old, discovered less than half (48%) of respondents admitted to having a Will. The proportion didn’t change much amongst those who were married or in a civil partnership, with only 55% having a written Will. Those that did have a Will were significantly more likely to be 55 or older.
The research discovered almost half of people without a Will say they simply haven’t got around to it. More worrying still, 13% thought there was no need for a Will because their loved ones would automatically inherit. This is an erroneous view that could have a lasting financial impact and the importance of having a Will should not be under played. Without one, the distribution of your assets will be at the mercy of the intestacy rules. These rules are fixed, and not particularly contemporary. They can, therefore, have undesirable results in terms of who gets what, and potentially unnecessary inheritance tax.
A Will therefore is not just for those who are a little older or wealthier: a Will is important for everyone. That said putting a Will in place should particularly be a priority for those with children who ideally should have named guardians, and those who are nearing, or are already in, retirement. These people may have accumulated substantial assets and pensions, and could have children and grandchildren they may want to look out for.
Making a Will does not have to be expensive. In the research, of those who had already written a Will, the majority (68%) chose a solicitor to write their Will, but other methods like a DIY kit or homemade Will can work in some very simple circumstances. However, there is a high chance of error and of the Will subsequently being challenged and found invalid, so cheap is not always best.
It’s important to remember to update your Will on a regular basis. Almost 60% of respondents surveyed had not written a new Will or updated an old one for more than 5 years, and 21% has not revisited their Will for more than 10 years. Where there is any major change in personal circumstances, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or a death within the family, your Will should be reviewed.
The choice of executors is critical. You could select a family friend, close relative, an independent expert
Or a combination. It is important that those chosen are both willing and competent to cope with any problems that might arise. The executors of your Will are ultimately responsible for administering your estate in accordance with your wishes, settling debts and testamentary expenses, and dealing with all your assets. Even if your affairs are straightforward, there is considerable work involved in carrying out the task of administration. The responsibilities of an executor can be onerous and it is not always appropriate to appoint a member of the family alone. The administration of an estate can be complicated, and this is especially the case where an individual holds a significant investment portfolio, a business interest, or agricultural or other land, the distribution of which Will almost certainly involve difficult decisions.
A Will ultimately provides peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out. It can also be critical component of Inheritance Tax planning to help mitigate tax on your estate and help maximise any legacy you wish to leave behind. So if you haven’t ‘got around to it’, I hope you consider getting it started.