“Nothing is certain except death and taxes”, as Benjamin Franklin once said. While an admittedly depressing statement, this turn of phrase has nonetheless stood the test of time. Taxes are an unavoidable part of life, and so too, is death.
As such, it is widely acknowledged and accepted that individuals should have their affairs in order in the event of expected or unexpected death. Indeed, a recent poll by YouGov found that the overwhelming majority (82 per cent) of Britons aged between 18 and 50 believe that it is important to have some form of will in place.
Yet, despite this belief, three in five (59 per cent) UK adults do not have a will.
This is a concerning trend. Certainly, failing to have a will in place could result in complications and upset for friends and family, should an individual die without making the necessary preparations. And of course, the key to tackling this problem is to first understand the crux of the issue.
Postponing will writing
Unlike other aspects of financial management, such as investments, individuals are unlikely to see any immediate results when they have written a will. So, while it is possible to track the rise and fall of potential investments, the benefits of a will only come to fruition when the individual has died.
As the lack of benefit is not visible, many people are more inclined to postpone writing a will to a later date.
This is particularly common among younger people, who tend to believe that they are too young for a will. Indeed, 76 per cent of people under the age of 35 do not have a will in place.
This age gap could be for a variety of reasons – for example, many younger people don’t believe they have enough assets to justify writing a will. Again, this seems to be a more common viewpoint among younger individuals, who perhaps might not own property, or enough possessions to consider themselves to be “asset rich”.
Finally, many people are reluctant to create a will, simply because the thought of broaching an uncomfortable topic is considered to be vulgar or unnerving.
For example, another recent survey conducted by YouGov discovered that a large majority (60 per cent) of the population consider themselves to be reserved, suggesting a national reluctance to directly discuss a difficult subject like death or will creation with friends and family.
While all these reasons are understandable, they can be extremely damaging, not just to the future of their estate, but it can also make evaluating assets more complicated later down the line, and cause a great deal of emotional stress for loved ones.
An inflexible system
If an individual dies without a valid will in place, their assets are at the mercy of highly inflexible intestacy rules. These rules mean that an individual’s assets are divided among their immediate family, with almost no exceptions.
For example, if an individual is married without children, all of their possessions will go to their spouse. People who are married with children will have £250,000 worth of assets go to their spouse, in addition to the half of any remainder – the other half of the remainder will be shared between their children.