In March 2023 the National Will Register commissioned a survey to better understand the way in which will writing and estate planning was undertaken by the public in the United Kingdom. The report published in April 2023 provides some useful insight into the public’s views.
1,004 people were asked questions about whether or not they had made a will and how, where it was kept and whether they had told their loved ones about their wishes and where to find documents when the time came to do so.
Worryingly, the survey found that only 44% of all adults in the UK have made a will with 42% saying they had not discussed what should happen upon their death with their loved ones. Of those who have made a will, 58% were 55 years or over. Of those who had not made a will, 39% said they had not got round to it yet, 31% said they did not feel they had enough to warrant making a will, 11% said they did not know how to make a will, 9% that their estate was too simple and 6% that they considered it too morbid to do so.
When considered with research carried out in September 2019 by the Remember a Charity consortium, this latest report demonstrates the need to ensure public awareness is raised as regards the importance of making a will and how to go about doing so. Whilst ideally none of us wish to spend time thinking about financial and other arrangements upon our death, the importance of making a will cannot be understated.
It is always a difficult time for family and friends when a loved one passes away, but having a will setting out your wishes upon your death can make life considerably easier for them. It should also be remembered that the contents of a will are not restricted to disposal of your assets and may include many other wishes that you would like carried out upon your death. Where you do have assets, however, it should be remembered that if you do not have a will these would then pass pursuant to the statutory provisions of the Intestacy Rules. Such distribution may mean that your estate passes to someone who you would not have wished to inherit – for example, an estranged member of your family. Conversely, it may mean that your estate does not pass to someone who you would have wished to inherit – for example, a step-child or a close personal friend.
Why should you make a will?
Set out below are a few reasons as to why you should make a will, even if you do not have any assets or any assets which are of significant value.
1. Your funeral arrangements. Your wishes in relation to whether you would want to be buried or cremated can be included in your will as can arrangements for the service itself and, if you are cremated, what you would like to happen to your ashes.
2. Minor children. Whilst none of us expect to die before our children have reached the age of majority, sadly it is sometimes the case that this happens. A will allows you to appoint guardians for your children to ensure their well-being after you have died, thereby giving you peace of mind that should the worse happen your children’s welfare will be secured and in the hands of someone you trust.
3. Your personal possessions. Do you have personal possessions which may not be of particular value in monetary terms but do have sentimental value – for example, a particular piece of jewellery, a painting or maybe even an item which you inherited yourself from a loved one which you would like in turn to gift to a family member or friend. Any such items can be specifically identified in your will and gifted to individuals.
4. Your digital assets. Do you have photos stored in the cloud or on a social media account? You may even have online accounts where you have accrued substantial loyalty points or bonuses. If so, a will can set out your wishes as to who you would wish to inherit these items, albeit subject in the case of any online/social media accounts to the terms of the user agreements themselves.
5. Trust and tax arrangements. By making a will you can also put in place arrangements to provide for your estate to be held in trust. Setting up trust arrangements could result in substantial tax savings ensuring that as much of your estate as possible is available for distribution to your loved ones. It may also be helpful to know that a charitable donation is free of inheritance tax.
6. Testamentary freedom. In England and Wales testators are free to leave their assets to who they wish. However, it is important to have regard to any claims which beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries may be able to bring against your estate after your death. Whilst making a will may not prevent someone from bringing a claim against your estate following your death, it may assist in defeating the same and is your opportunity to have a “voice” in relation to any such claims after your death. When making a will consideration should always be given to any such potential claims and as to whether reference should be made to them in the will.
As the latest research demonstrates, making a will is often something that people put off doing because they think they do not need one, are too young to have one, do not have time to make one or do not know how to go about doing so. However, these are not good reasons for not making a will and as it is fact that sadly none of us know when we are going to die, do not delay, make a will today!
What to do if you wish to make a will or need advice as regards a claim against an estate?
If you wish to make a will, please contact Paul Lowery in our Wealth Protection team on 0118 952 7174 or by email at [email protected]. Alternatively, if you have or think you may have a claim against an estate of someone who has recently died or are an executor or beneficiary seeking to challenge a claim that has been made against an estate, please contact Ally Tow in our Dispute Resolution team on 07894 512 991 or by email at [email protected]
Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.