The majority of Britons have not written a will according to research out today from the Law Society.
The representative body for solicitors has now warned that the consequences of dying without a valid will can be dire for those left behind.
The research revealed that 73 per cent of 16-54 year olds don't have a will, while 64 per cent of people over the age of 55 have made their final wishes clear in a will. The research also found that men are more likely to have a will and keep it updated than women.
'£8m went to the government because people had not written a will'
Last year, £8m went to the government because people died intestate. Twenty-three per cent of respondents wrongly believed that without a will, their possessions would automatically go to their family.
It is estimated that by 2018 the government will receive nearly £6bn from inheritance tax. But by careful planning, such as leaving money to charity, those with a will can substantially reduce the amount of inheritance tax that becomes liable or even alleviate it all together. Inheritance tax can be a lot higher without a will.
Law Society president Andrew Caplen said the figures are extremely concerning:
'Thousands of people die every year without making a will or without a properly drafted will. These figures show just how bad the problem is.
'Dying intestate not only means your final wishes will probably go unheeded, but the financial and emotional mess is left for your loved ones to sort out. This need not be your final legacy.
'Making a will is usually a very simple process but we urge people to use a qualified, insured solicitor because he or she will be able to spot the nuances that could lead to trouble later on if not properly addressed.'
In a separate recent survey conducted by YouGov, 71 per cent of people said that they would be more likely to use a WIQS-accredited law firm. The Law Society' Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme provides a best practice quality mark for wills and estate administration advice that consumers can trust.
The biggest motivators for people writing a will are seeing the negative implications of not having one, and 'feeling old enough'. Nearly half (47.2 per cent) of people draw up a will for one for one of these two reasons.
'I wrote a will after nearly dying in a hotel swimming pool'
One respondent said nearly dying in a holiday swimming pool compelled them to write their will, while another said they didn't want their estranged wife to inherit anything. A high number of respondents said they had a will drafted following a divorce.
The biggest reason people do not have a will is because they do not believe they have anything worth leaving (34 per cent).
Regionally, the highest rate of people with a will is in the South East of England (46.9 per cent), whilst nearly 6 out of 10 people in Wales don't have a will.
To find a solicitor specialising in wills and probate, consumers can visit the Law Society's Find a Solicitor service.
The Law Society Find a Solicitor database is a free service that allows you to search for a solicitor in your area.
The Law Society's consumer campaign - 'Use a professional. Use a solicitor' - encourages people to use a professional, regulated solicitor when making a will.
The Law Society's Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS) provides a best practice quality mark for wills and estate administration advice that consumers can trust.
The research for the Law Society was carried out by Opinion Matters between: 14/10/2014 and 17/10/2014.
All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).
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.
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