Experts Share Views On Will Study Research

A law firm, Winckworth Sherwood, commissioned a YouGov study which revealed that 44% of over-50s have changed their Will several times due to the complexities of modern family relationships.

Winckworth Sherwood found that people typically changed their Will because of either specific life events or sudden changes in life circumstances. Examples of life events which spurred people to think about making changes to their Wills include the arrival of children and the death of a parent or divorce.

However, the study revealed 26% of over 50s have not written a Will at all, which leaves their assets to pass under the intestacy rules. In these circumstances, this can lead to claims going to court or even worse, assets being left to the State.

We asked industry experts whether the main findings of the study surprised them, what they think is the reason for the rise in Will revising for the over 50s and whether they have had experience of it themselves.

Clive Ponder, Director of Countrywide Tax and Trust Corporation Ltd said:

“The contents of the article do not surprise me as it is in this over 50 category where most of the family changes begin to take place. For example, children divorcing, grandchildren and or step grandchildren being added to the family, parents entering care, additional wealth. All of these events and others will inevitably make the client reconsider who their assets are being left to on death.

“So, understanding that these changes may take place after advice has been given we should offer the clients documents that enable some flexibility to accommodate the situation pertaining at death rather than the situation at the time of taking instructions.

“If this flexibility is considered when advising the client some of the family events will not require documents redrafting so often. It is also better in these cases if the client forgets to update the Will.

“For instance, if bequests in the Will are left absolutely to family members then changes in family dynamics mean the Will needs changing. If discretionary trusts were used originally when first taking Will instructions the Will may not require changing when family circumstances change. This has got to be advantageous to the client.”

Michael Culver, Board Director at Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) said:

“The frequency of reviewing Wills is not surprising as SFE encourages people to review legal documents every three to five years, or whenever there is a significant change in circumstance. Reasons for doing so could include divorce, moving property, a financial windfall, or the birth of children or grandchildren.

“Sometimes a crisis or sudden illness causes people to rethink their Wills to redistribute wealth. Changes could also be for more administrative reasons, like altering who administers the estate, any funeral preferences or how personal possessions are to be gifted.

“Wills are essential for a person of any age with assets, but over 50’s are most likely to regularly adjust their documents – often because families get larger, or more complex. Although the number of amendments seem high, SFE urges people to revisit their Wills regularly, to ensure that the distribution of their assets and estates always best reflects their wishes.”

Jennifer Attrill, private client solicitor at Kiteleys Solicitors said:

“I have definitely had experience of over 50s revising their Wills numerous times. This can be due to many reasons but often I have quite a lot of elderly clients deliberating over whether they should leave their Estate to distant family members or charities, or clients that have become estranged from some members of their family and wish to reflect this in their Wills.

“Sometimes it is that they feel that one particular family member needs more financial help than the others if they have recently been through a separation and there are children involved for example. Other times clients do not approve of their children’s partners and are concerned that they should not receive any of their inheritance.”

As a Will writer, what is your opinion of the study findings? Have you seen an increase in more over 50s consciously updating their Wills several times?

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