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Majority of Britons have no will and should act fast, warns Law Society

12 May 2014

Almost two out of three Britons have not made a will and risk leaving a financial nightmare for family members when they die, warns the Law Society.

Research out today from the Dying Matters Coalition revealed that only 36 per cent of British adults say they have written a will, while 83 per cent reported being uncomfortable discussing their dying wishes. The research coincides with Dying Awareness Week.

Those who die without a will are said to die intestate, and this can result in a complicated and long drawn-out battle for those left behind. When a person dies intestate, the State will direct who inherits, so their friends, favourite charities and relatives may get nothing.

A will is always important but especially so for those who are not married or in a registered civil partnership - the law does not necessarily recognise cohabitants. People with children or dependents will need to make it clear who will look after or provide for them.

Law Society president Nicholas Fluck reacted to the findings:

'It is extremely concerning that a significant number of people have not written a will and made their final wishes clear. It is understandable that most of us are uncomfortable discussing our dying wishes, especially younger people, but you have nothing to lose and your loved ones can have everything to gain if you ensure your affairs are in order.

'The families of those who die intestate will often use their experience as a cautionary tale of struggling with banks, utility companies and property sales, for example. Don't let that be your family.

'A badly drafted will can cause more problems than no will at all, so the Law Society advises against using unregulated will writers. All solicitors are subject to strict regulation to ensure that they deliver the best service to their clients, unlike unregulated will writers. Solicitors are unparalleled in the will writing market as only they have the breadth of training to consider wider implications and complex issues, including tax and family law.

'We welcome this insightful research from the Dying Matters Coalition and hope it encourages people to be more open about their wishes after death.'

The Law Society's Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQs) provides a best practice quality mark for law firms and solicitors with respect to wills and estate administration. Firms or solicitors who have received WIQs accreditation have demonstrated a that they follow best practice procedures to meet the highest standards of technical expertise and client service in this area.

The Law Society provides a free Find a Solicitor service for the public to assist in finding appropriately qualified lawyers to assist with legal issues, including will writing.

Ends

Notes to editors

The research also revealed that 71 per cent of people said they have never thought about what would happen to their digital legacy, such as social media and online accounts, online photos and music, when they die. The Law Society encourages people to leave clear instructions about what should happen to their digital assets after their death. Having a list of all your online accounts, such as email, banking, investments and social networking sites will make it easier for family members to piece together your digital legacy, adhere to your wishes and could save time and money. Not making your digital legacy clear could mean important or sentimental material - such as photographs on social networks - is never recovered.

Visit the Law Society's Find A Solicitor service

About the Law Society of England and Wales

The Law Society is the independent professional body, established for solicitors in 1825, that works globally to support and represent its members, promoting the highest professional standards and the rule of law.

We aim to be the leading representative of the world's best legal profession, valued as a vital partner by all we serve and engage with.

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