60% will leave families stranded

coffinAnthony Devlin/PA Archive/Press Association Images

No-one likes to think about life after they've passed away, but neglecting the state of affairs you leave behind is a very dangerous business. It means anything you own won't be divided up according to your wishes, but following arbitrary rules. It may leave your spouse in dire straights, and neglect some of your nearest and dearest entirely.

And the number of people sleepwalking into this nightmare is truly horrifying.

No will

According to research by Standard Life, six in ten people don't have a will, including 24% of people aged 65 and over. More than three quarters (78%) of those 'living as married' don't have a will drawn up - which will mean their other half gets nothing. Meanwhile, only 27% of adults with children in the household have an up-to-date will, so that if the parents were to pass away the children could be left uncared for.

And what is our brilliant reason for not having made this vital preparation? Almost a third (31%) of people currently without a will say they just haven't got round to it yet.

The risks

Julie Hutchison, head of technical insight at Standard Life, said: "Creating a will can be seen as a difficult and uncomfortable thing to do. The modern family can be complicated, we're all rushed off our feet and we don't really like to think about death. But the reality is if you were to die without a will the emotional strain on your family, friends and loved ones could far outweigh the time and money spent in sorting your will out in advance."

You might assume that if you die intestate (without a will), your spouse gets everything, but this isn't the case. If you have children they just get the first £250,000 of your estate and the rest is shared between the children. If the couple doesn't have children, the spouse gets £450,000 and anything remaining is split between the spouse and their parents. If they are unmarried, but have children, the children take the estate. If they are unmarried without children the estate goes to their parents.

Risky groups

The fact that modern life is complicated is not only a reason why we're not getting round to drawing up a will: it's also why having one is so essential. The fact the number of people without a will who live as married is so high (78%), is alarming, according to Hutchison: "Couples who aren't married or in civil partnership, do not have the same legal protection as married couples if they die without a will in place. If one were to die, the money could be passed onto their parents, or family member before their partner. This can of course lead to unnecessary legal complications and emotional hardships that can be easily avoided. Therefore a large proportion of this group really need to review their circumstances and prioritise the value of having a will to protect their partner and any children they might also have in the relationship."

Hutchison continued: "As the research proves, the vast majority of people currently without a Will aren't concerned about the cost of creating a Will. However, the fact that they're using lack of time as an excuse shows a real sense of people's priorities. Though the decisions that need to be made might take some time to think through, finalising a will is not an arduous process and can be done quickly. And also while some might not believe they have any substantial assets to pass on, it's important to remember that having a will in place is about peace of mind, and confidence in having your affairs in order."

Make a will

The message is clear: it's not difficult or expensive to make a will, and it needs to be done right now if your family are to avoid a nightmare on your death. Before you start, you simply need to ask yourself a few questions, and then divide your estate accordingly.

1. Who do I need to take care of after my death?
2. What financial provisions need to be put in place for them?
3. What logistical arrangements need to be laid out for their care?
4. Do I have the assets to take care of them, or do I need insurance?
5. Are there any specific bequests I want to make?
6. Is this fair, and if not, have I been clear as to why so the will cannot be contested later?
7. Have I considered everyone, and is the will written so that it will continue to be fair no matter how my family grows?
8. Do I need provision to pay inheritance tax after my death?
9. Who should I make executors of my will?
10. When will I make arrangements to revisit my will?

Areas least likely to have a will

Yorkshire & Humber (67%)
London (66%)
North West (65%)
West Midlands (64%)
East Midlands and Wales (both 63%)
East of England (59%)
South West (58%)
South East (57%)
Scotland (55%)
North East (53%)

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