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31 million adults don’t have a will in place

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

Three in five (59%) UK adults have not written a will, according to Canada Life.

This equates to 31 million people, whose property, financial and other assets could be left to someone they have not chosen when they die.

Financial services firm Canada Life says it doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated to put your affairs in order by writing a will, and it can save your loved ones from problems dealing with your estate later on.

Of those who have not written a will yet, 22% are over the age of 75, and 39% are aged between 65 and 74. Worryingly, a third (32%) of those aged 75 or over haven’t even started thinking about writing a will yet.

Since the start of lockdown in March, those aged between 25 and 34 have, however, started the will writing process or made changes to their existing one.

During this period, a fifth (21%) of 25 to 34-year-olds started thinking about writing a will for the first time and one in 10 (12%) wrote one. A further 30% updated an existing will.

Canada Life also asked survey respondents if they had a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in place. It found that just 12% of UK adults had an LPA in place before the Covid-19 lockdown.

However, 6% said they had engaged a solicitor or the Office of the Public Guardian during the pandemic to put an LPA in place.

Only 13% of UK adults have written a living will, which is used to provide advanced decisions on refusing medical treatments if you become terminally ill or lose the ability to make decisions about medical treatment yourself.

A further 6% said they had made a living will, often called an “advance decision”, during lockdown.

Neil Jones, tax and estate planning specialist, Canada Life says: “Wills and estate planning more broadly is a sensitive subject for households across the UK, and is often thought of as a bit of a taboo subject. However, the global pandemic has focused minds and given us space to think. And it seems that it’s prompted some people to take action, from making changes to existing wills to encouraging them to think about writing one for the first time.

“While no one likes to think about their own mortality, getting your house in order by having the right legal instructions can take away much of the emotional and financial pressure at a very difficult time.

“Putting a will and other legal instructions in place needn’t be expensive or difficult to do, and there are a whole range of services and support available. Taking the first step is always the most difficult but puts you as the benefactor in the driving seat. A will can not only provide peace of mind that the correct beneficiaries benefit from any estate distribution, but that it is also done as efficiently as possible.”

The Ministry of Justice announced on the 25 July that it was easing the requirements regarding witnessing a will. Normally this has to be done by two people who are present when the will is signing but this caused difficultly during lockdown.

As a temporary measure the Ministry of Justice has legalised the remote witnessing of a will. Legislation is due in September to backdate this to January 2020 with the intention of leaving it in place until, at least, January 2022.