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No will? You’re storing up problems for the future

Updated 22 December 2022

3min read

Nick Green
Financial Journalist

Nearly a third of people over the age of 55 still don’t have a will, according to recent research. Many people are also still unaware of the numerous problems associated with dying intestate. Are the Baby Boomers risking their families’ inheritance unnecessarily?

Many people assume that when they die, all their worldly goods will naturally pass to the most obvious person: their spouse, if they are married, or their children if there is no spouse. Often, it may indeed happen that way – but frequently it does not. This is because of the number of people who still fail to make a will.

Modern families are increasingly complex, with second marriages, children from different spouses and all the resulting complications. But even in the simplest family, where it’s obvious who should inherit, the lack of a will means a much longer delay before beneficiaries can access the assets.

What people don’t know about wills

Research commissioned by self-storage company Safestore suggests that many people are literally storing up problems for the future. Besides revealing that 31 per cent of those aged 55+ do not yet have a will, the study found that:

  • 12 per cent still have children in their household
  • 16 per cent are separated or divorced
  • 48 per cent admit they 'haven't got round' to writing one
  • 18 per cent feel that they don't have anything of value to leave behind
  • 12 per cent believe that all assets would go to a partner regardless

The last figure is perhaps the most significant, as it shows that 88 per cent do not believe that their assets would necessarily go to the right person automatically – and yet they still have not made a will. Simon Crooks, a solicitor at Argo Life & Legacy Ltd, highlights this as a real problem. ‘Wills are essential life documents which really ought to be in place well before you reach 55. It is concerning that so many 55+ year olds have not taken the time to complete one, especially where there are children or marital issues involved,’ he said.

Why wills help with long-term planning

As Crooks also points down, a will is about much more than just who gets what. He explains, ‘You get to choose the people who will manage your affairs on death and they have power to act straight away. If you have younger children, you can appoint people as Guardians to be responsible for their upbringing and welfare.’ Another benefit he cites is that making a will forces you to confront a whole range of potentially challenging issues, including retirement plans, tax planning, care fee planning, policies and pensions. ‘Not having a will often means none of these issues have been considered which can cause problems in the future,’ he points out.

The Safestore research also highlights the fact that many do not understand the intestacy rules. These can be particularly problematic in the case of spouses who are separated but not divorced, or when there are children from a previous and/or second marriage. Without a legal document in place to express your true wishes, it is probable that some or even all intended beneficiaries may miss out on their inheritance.

‘People often think they will review their Will after a divorce is finalised,’ says Simon Crooks. ‘But what happens if you die before this is sorted? You're stuck with the Will already in place. It is best practice to write a new Will as soon as you can and review it when the divorce is complete.’

If you don't yet have a will, don’t worry – it's easy to find a local solicitor using the Unbiased search.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,524 adults aged 55+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd - 24th February 2017 for Safestore. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 55+).

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About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.