Most important for people to make wills

Britain's changing social landscape is leaving more and more people vulnerable to dying without a will, but the irony is that those who need a will most are those most likely to go without.

With marriage rates falling and cohabitation on the rise, more people are putting themselves at risk of losing everything by not writing a will.

Statistics from the National Consumer Council (NCC) show that 27.5 million people in the UK have yet to make a will.

Perversely, those most in need of a will are those least likely to own one. Only 17 per cent of people cohabiting had made a will by 2006, despite this group being most at risk of losing property or belongings should their partner die or the relationship end.

Matthew Fidge, of DIY will-making company Lawpack, agrees that cohabiting couples are putting themselves at risk.

"Under our current laws there is no automatic right to inherit for those who are unmarried or without a Civil Partnership. Put simply, there is no such thing as a common law wife or husband," he said.

So why are so many people failing to see the dangers?

The NCC asked 2,673 consumers in England and Wales about their attitude to will-making.

Of those who didn't have a will, only four per cent said they were already confident that their estates would go to the people they wanted it to go to.

The most common reason for not having a will was that people simply had not got round to it, with 42 per cent giving this answer.

Tellingly, 30 per cent of those surveyed said they had never even thought about making a will.

"If the process of making a will becomes more accessible, experience shows that people are more likely to make a will," says Mr Fidge.

One of the keys to this is helping people to understand what they stand to lose if their loved ones don't have wills, and how they can get one.

According to the Administration of Estates Act 1925, a spouse doesn't automatically inherit everything in the deceased estate.

If there are children, some of the estate may pass directly to them. Also, if the children are under 18, inheritance can often end up in the hands of trusts who could keep the money for several years.

The accessibility of will-making has grown with the advent of DIY law companies like Lawpack.

Not only do they help consumers to produce their own wills legally and easily, they are also much more cost-effective than often expensive solicitor fees.

According to NCC's report the most common reason people made a will was for peace of mind. In an increasingly fragile Britain, it is time 27.5 million more people gave themselves some peace of mind.

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Published on: September 26, 2008

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