A study by Co-op Legal Services has found that almost half of Brits don’t have a Will in place. Co-op also discussed common myths with respondents, finding widespread confusion over inheritance and estate issues.
The report discovered that 49% of those questioned did not have a Will in place, with 9% saying they did not even know how to start the process of having a Will written.
The study questioned 2,000 UK adults about Wills and related issues. As a result of the pandemic, 14% of people had made a Will, with over a quarter of these aged below 35.
Co-op also asked people whether some common myths were true or not, with some shocking results.
Myth 1: If a parent dies, any remaining children or stepchildren will automatically inherit any assets and can decide what to do with them without needing a Will. (FALSE)
This is a common misconception, in fact 67% got this wrong. If someone does not leave a Will then there is a strict order in which relatives will inherit, starting with a spouse and children. The amount each will receive depends on the individual circumstances. Stepchildren do not inherit anything if no Will is left. Children might not inherit anything if the value of the estate is below a certain threshold.
Myth 2: If you have no blood relatives and no Will, your estate may be passed on to the Crown. (TRUE)
If no blood relatives of the deceased are located within 12 years of their death and there is no Will, then the Crown will receive the entire estate. 31% of people got this question wrong.
Myth 3: If someone becomes unable to manage their own affairs during their lifetime, the executors named in their Will can manage their affairs for them, eg. making medical decisions and dealing with their finances. (FALSE)
A worrying 77% of people didn’t realise that this is untrue. If someone becomes unable to manage their own affairs and has not put a Lasting Power of Attorney in place, then no-one has the authority to make decisions or deal with their finances on their behalf. To gain this authority, someone would have to make a lengthy application to the Court of Protection to become a deputy.
This can be avoided by making a Lasting Power of Attorney, appointing the trusted relative or friend of your choice to make decisions on your behalf should you ever become unable to do so.
Myth 4: If someone is married, their spouse automatically inherits their assets, so they don’t need a Will. (FALSE)
Of those questioned, 44% got this wrong. Without a Will, a spouse will be the main beneficiary, however they will not necessarily inherit everything, depending on the size of the estate and whether the deceased had children. If someone wants their spouse to inherit everything, they will need to make a Will stating this.
Writing a Will
Having a valid Will drawn up means that you can leave your assets to the beneficiaries of your choice. You can also pass on your estate in the most tax-efficient way possible. Leaving a Will is also known to reduce the risk of misunderstandings and disagreements arising after someone’s death.