Apathy is stopping people writing a Will, according to new research

19 November 2018
  • 58% of the British adult population do not have a Will
  • Most common excuse cited is ‘not getting around to it’
  • Of those with a will, nearly a quarter never review it

It is never a nice thing to think about what might happen upon your death, but we are all have a choice over where our wealth and belongings go. But only if we make a Will.

Research from leading wealth manager Tilney*, which advises clients with over £24 billion of assets, reveals that 58% of the British adult population does not have a Will. While this is understandably highest among the 18-24 year olds (89%), a still worrying 78% of 35-44 year olds and 63% of 45-54 year olds also admit to not having a Will. Over a quarter (27%) of those aged 55 and above also do not have a Will.

The dangers of dying without a Will – a situation known as intestacy - are great as you lose all control of where your estate ends up. If you have a spouse and direct descendants (children, grandchildren) it flows through them, if not then it goes up via your parents, or if they are deceased then out via brothers or sisters, if you have them. The rules differ slightly between England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The risk is especially acute for people in relationships who aren’t married or in a civil partnership. They will inherit nothing without a Will in place leaving them assets, potentially jeopardising the roof over their head. Not having a Will could also mean an elderly surviving parent gets all the assets – even if you are estranged from them – rather than a sibling which may in turn mean more of the parents estate will become subject to inheritance tax. Even if you are married, and the assets pass to your partner, without a Will their financial future could be at risk if assets are not ring fenced for them. For example, your former partner might remarry and later get divorced with their ex-partner receiving assets that could have benefited the children.

So why are so many people leaving it to chance? The main reason for this lack of preparation appears to be apathy. The most common response (38%) when asked why people do not have a will was that they simply hadn’t ‘got around to it yet’. This was even higher for those aged 45 and above, where 50% of respondents admitted they ‘haven’t got around to it’. Other reasons cited include not having enough assets to write one (32%), and feeling too young to worry about one (24%), although this response was, as would be expected, highest amongst those ages 18-24 (71%).

Amongst those who do have a Will, about one in four (23%) admit to never reviewing it. Changes in circumstances, such as relationships and family births and deaths, as well as legal and tax changes mean that Wills should be reviewed periodically.

Ian Dyall, head of estate planning at Tilney, said: “There seems to be the perception that your estate will automatically go to whom you want upon your death. This is far from the truth. The figures from this research show that a worrying number of people have not made a Will seemingly out of pure apathy and even when they have one, many do not review these regularly. If you do not leave a Will, you simply leave problems for your loved ones including delays and confusions as to where you want your money to go and potentially someone who you would not wish to receive your assets will land a windfall. There are also instances where the windfall could cause a problem, such as an elderly parent who has been gifting money to avoid inheritance tax.

It is not just about money. For many respondents who did not have a Will, many (32%) felt they did not have enough assets to bother writing a Will yet. But if you have children, which 55% of GB adults do, then you are almost certain to have something to leave and importantly you should also consider who will be their guardians if both parents die? Would you like a say in this? A Will is the place to make your wishes clear.

“While it is not a nice thing to have to think about, even young people can die, so drawing up a will is not just for the old or the wealthy – this is something that should be drawn up at a younger age and reviewed regularly. If you decide to wait, it may be too late.

“If you die intestate you could also end up saddling your loved ones with levels of inheritance tax that could have been mitigated, as a well-drafted Will can ensure that your estate makes the most of the inheritance tax allowances, reducing the amount that is lost by your beneficiaries. “Death is of course one of the few certainties in life and so it really does make sense to think about the financial consequences well ahead. While a Will is a vital component of this, exposure to inheritance tax – which last year generated a record £5.2 billion for HM Treasury – can be mitigated by actions taken while you are alive such as making life time gifts, funding pensions, establishing trusts or investing in assets subject to Business Relief. Financial advisers and solicitors therefore both have vital roles to play in helping people ensure their assets are passed on to who they want as tax efficiently as possible.”  

* All figures, unless stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 6,031 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th and 19th October 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). 

About Tilney

Tilney is a leading investment and financial planning group that builds on a heritage of more than 180 years.  Our clients are private investors, charities and professional intermediaries who trust us with over £23 billion of their assets. We offer a range of services including financial planning, investment management and advice and, through our Bestinvest service, a leading online platform for those who prefer to manage their own investments.

We have won numerous awards. Tilney has been awarded Best Conventional Advisory Service at the 2018 City of London Wealth Management Awards, Best Advisory Service in the 2015 City of London Wealth Management Awards; Investment Award – Cautious category in the Private Asset Management Awards; and Stockbroker of the Year, Execution-only Stockbroker of the Year and Self-select ISA Provider of the Year 2015, as voted by readers of the Financial Times and Investors Chronicle. Bestinvest was voted Best SIPP Provider and Best Fund Platform at the 2017 City of London Wealth Management Awards, Best Direct SIPP Provider at the YourMoney.com Awards 2017, Best Stocks & Shares ISA Provider at the 2017 Shares Awards, as well as Best Self Select ISA Provider, Best Online/Execution-only Stockbroker and Best Investment Platform 2017 at the FT and Investors Chronicle Investment and Wealth Management Awards, as voted by readers of the FT and Investors Chronicle.

Headquartered in Mayfair, London, the Tilney Group employs over 1,000 staff across our network of 30 offices, enabling us to support clients with a local service throughout the UK.