Families must get to grips with their financial affairs and put proper wills and powers of attorney in place, to prevent significant stress for the survivors.
This is the stark warning from Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just Group, who said too many Brits die without having even put a simple will in place, leading to extreme stress and potential hardship for the survivors.
He said this is particularly important for the male partner in a heterosexual marriage or partnership, given the likelihood that the woman would outlive the male partner and will therefore need to manage the finances herself after her husband's death.
Lowe said: "It is important that couples think about what they would like to happen if one of them dies before the other. For heterosexual couples this should take into account that female life expectancy is higher than for men and so increases the possibility that women may outlive male partners.
"But regardless of gender, it’s important that families have this discussion and put plans in place to avoid additional stress after the death of a partner, a period that will already be very difficult."
The conversations, however, are not easy to have, but he said it was vital these discussions do take place while both partners have the mental and physical capacity to set proper plans in place.
Lowe added: "When it comes to who manages money, each household may have its own habits – they may share it or the management may be picked up by one partner. It’s worth preparing for what will happen if the person who has habitually ‘managed the money’ dies first.
“And for anyone who is older and has a will, whether they’re in a couple or not, the next step should be to consider a power of attorney.”
His comments came on the back of research carried out by Just Group in October, which marks Free Wills Month. The research, carried out by pollster Opinium among 1,043 UK retired and semi-retired adults aged 55 and above, found that a significant proportion of older Brits have not even made a will.
The research found:
- More than one in 10 over 75s (12 per cent - equating to nearly 700,000 people) have not made a will.
- Some 22 per cent of 65-74 year olds (equating to 1.5m people) have not made a will.
- Only 30 per cent of people aged 75 and above have put a power of attorney arrangement in place, meaning 4m Brits do not have a POA.
- More than 5m people aged 65 to 74 do not have a POA in place.
Lowe added getting these things in place were not just important to prevent people dying intestate, but also highlighted the financial benefits to planning in advance how and when to pass on inheritances.
Moreover, given the rising need to pay for social and later life care, having a proper POA in place could help families whose elderly relatives find themselves in need of long-term, later-life care.
Ruth Driscoll, head of policy and public affairs in England for end-of-life charity Marie Curie, said: “We believe everyone should have the right to a conversation about what matters most to them when they are approaching the end of their life.