Write a will, don’t let loved ones miss out

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MORE than half of the UK’s adult population has not made a will, despite campaigns to promote its importance.

On average, 58 per cent of people in the country are without a will – although the Yorkshire region fares slightly better at 55 per cent.

The research was carried out by Unbiased.co.uk in advance of its annual Write a Will Week, which begins on Monday and is being run in conjunction with Octopus Investments.

Karen Barrett, chief executive of Unbiased.co.uk, said: “This is our fourth annual Write a Will Week and the topic continues to be as important as it was four years ago.

“Too many people are simply unaware of the control that having a will gives you and its importance in ensuring your loved ones receive what you intended them to.”

The research, carried out in late September, showed that 44 per cent of people in Yorkshire and the Humber did have a will, placing the region near the top of the table. The highest score was in the South East, where 49 per cent of people had a will, followed by the East of England at 46 per cent.

At the bottom of the scale was the North East where just 30 per cent of people have got a will, followed by Northern Ireland at 32 per cent and the North West and Wales, both with 38 per cent.

The research showed that the main reason for not writing a will was procrastination.

Thirty per cent of people said they would make one when they were older, while 21 per cent said they had nothing of value to leave behind and 11 per cent said they had never thought of it.

Despite this lack of planning, 74 per cent of people said they wanted to pass on money – an average of £45,000 – to their loved ones after they died and 56 per cent wanted to leave assets, such as jewellery and paintings. On top of that, 65 per cent planned to leave property, worth an average of £199,000.

Direct descendants are still the main beneficiaries of wills, with 36 per cent of people hoping to leave enough money to fund some aspect of their child or grandchild’s future.

Eight per cent want to donate a significant amount of money to charity and seven per cent want to leave enough money for their pets to live comfortably after they have gone.

Ms Barrett added: “People should be thinking early on about how best to protect their belongings and assets to ensure they go to those they intended them for when they pass away.

“People spend their lives providing for their loved ones, yet lack of action in planning their affairs for after they have gone could lead to a hefty inheritance tax bill, not to mention additional stress for the family and potential delay in distributing assets.

“The easiest way to ensure your estate goes to the people you want to when you die is to consult a solicitor or financial adviser, who can help you interpret the current inheritance rules and apply them to your situation.”

The research showed that one in ten people who did not have a will believed that their estate would automatically go to the right people when they died. However, dying without a will means any assets will be divided according to the rules of intestacy, which could leave stepchildren and unmarried partners in a vulnerable position.

Even if a will had been made, the survey revealed that 42 per cent of people had not thought about the potential impact of inheritance tax on their estate and 11 per cent were completely unaware that it could affect the amount they left to their families.

Guy Myles, co-founder and managing director at Octopus, said: “Write a Will Week is an important campaign and one that Octopus supports wholeheartedly.

“We believe that people should do whatever they can to ensure that their loved ones can live comfortably. This is why we have a range of tax efficient products, which allow people to reduce their inheritance tax liabilities while still having control of and access to their money.

“We see writing a will and inheritance tax planning as going hand in hand.

“Every year more people are finding that their personal estate is valued in excess of the current inheritance tax nil rate band of £325,000. When an individual dies, anything valued over and above this amount could be taxed at a rate of 40 per cent, which would take a large chunk out of the money intended to go to family and loved ones.”