Only 4 in 10 UK adults have a Will despite owning a property

A recent IRN Wills and Probate Research Report, titled UK Wills & Probate Market 2020: Consumer Research Report, has found that fewer than 4 in 10 adults in the UK have made a Will. This has come as a surprise to experts, who predicted that the global pandemic would encourage greater awareness and action around Wills and estate planning, but statistics show that there has been only a 1% increase in Will-making between 2019 and 2020.  

Commenting on the figures Claire Potter, a probate specialist said

“perhaps people have been reluctant to plan because there’s still been an element of denial or blind optimism even in the midst of a pandemic? Planning based around emotionally uncomfortable matters is something that people, in my experience have always been somewhat reluctant to do.” 

Although the number of adults with a Will increases with age, for example 79% of over 65s and 57% aged between 55 and 64 are reported to have one, the main driver for those choosing not to make a Will is because they don’t think they have anything of value to pass on, despite one in six owning a property. A recent study by Royal London found that of people aged over 55 without a Will, 16% own a home either outright or with a mortgage.  

Dying without a Will presents many challenges to bereaved families as the intestacy rules often don’t reflect the wishes of the person. Cases where married and civil partners inherit cutting children and other intended beneficiaries out of the inheritance are all too common.  

Family feuds can also be avoided with the presence of a Will, such as in the case of John Steele who found his father had died 14 months after the funeral had taken place and was falsely written out by the executor, his father’s brother:  

“I wasn’t told my dad had died and was robbed of the chance to kiss him goodbye when I missed his funeral” 

said John.

“It isn’t about the money. It’s the principle”, he concluded. 

So while dying intestate can cause problems such as the inadvertent disinheritance of close family members and relations, when it comes to probate property the complications become even greater. For example, houses can become unsellable while trying to track down relatives.

In a case looked at by Which? a man was tracked down by heir hunters after the death of a distant cousin. While he stood to inherit a house, during the three months it had taken to find him the house had completely devalued due to vandals and mould that had caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.  

Other issues arise in cases of jointly owned property, but not just traditional family homes, holiday homes owned by a group of people can fall foul of intestacy rules. If someone in the group dies, their share will pass to their family rather than the ownership group of friends, as it might not have been intended. The Will ensures that there are no ambiguities for the wishes of the deceased when it comes to any kind of property.  

For those that have made a Will the IRN report cites the number one reason amongst respondents for doing so was that they felt it provided “peace of mind”, with 67% stating this was the main driver behind their decision. Just under half of respondents (49% decreasing from 51% in 2019) stated that a Will ensures that their estate is distributed as they intended when they pass away. 

And peace of mind is what drives Adam Bonner, Managing Director of Proffered, facilitating the sale of probate property by providing fully funded guaranteed transactions, often sidestepping traditional estate agency routes. 

“The key message from us is that we’re able to provide greater certainty. When you think about private treaty estate agency, once you account for the standing costs of home ownership which may include ongoing mortgage payments, energy, and council tax, and considered any estate agency and legal fees, a typical probate sale results in around 96% of the value of the property being transferred to the beneficiaries” 

These services can also remove the hassle and worry of selling a probate home by transacting within extremely short timeframes, meaning that relations can benefit quickly, Bonner continues:

“We want to simply offer an alternative solution where other factors might necessitate a speedier resolution. Typically we purchase at 90% [of the value price] which we believe offers an alternative, albeit with a premium on certainty and speed as we’re usually able to transact within around 7 days.”

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