Expecting an inheritance windfall? Not likely, say nine in ten Brits

14 February 2014

Over half (57%) say they would rather loved ones spent cash on enjoying life, with a quarter (23%) expecting to inherit sentimental items.

Research from Co-op Legal Services has revealed that the majority (95%) of Brits are not counting on receiving a big inheritance from family members.

It seems that increased financial pressures mean many people no longer believe their relatives have what they deem ‘valuable’ assets to pass on. Over one-in-five (21%) believe people own fewer financially valuable items today and are leaving less to their loved ones in their Wills.

With people now leading active lives well beyond retirement age, most people (57%) say they would rather their relatives spent what they have on enjoying themselves and fulfilling their dreams in later life, instead of worrying about how much money to leave younger generations. Only 5% of people admit to being genuinely concerned that their loved ones won’t have anything of value to leave them.

The research therefore reveals a shift in the nature of inheritances. Almost a quarter (23%) of people now expect to receive sentimental items such as photo albums, letters, and family cooking recipes from loved ones, and less than half (40%) expect to inherit money.

Christina Blacklaws, Director of Policy at Co-op Legal Services, says:

"With Wills and inheritance often tied up with the concept of financial gain, it’s easy to see why some people feel that writing a Will isn’t necessary if they don’t have a large savings pot, or own any valuable property."

"Yet as this research shows, Wills are not just about passing wealth on to younger generations. It is just as important to have peace of mind that sentimental items are passed on. Less than half of the population currently has a valid Will, and not stating your wishes about your possessions may cause unnecessary family conflicts, or make it more difficult for your loved ones to arrange your affairs.”

The findings show that women are particularly convinced that sentimental items will be passed down to them, with 26% expecting to receive such items compared to 19% of men. And it seems they could be right, as 17% of women have already inherited sentimental gifts, compared to fewer than one-in-ten men (9%).

A fifth (20%) of all those surveyed also say they have left sentimental items in their own Wills, with 22% leaving family heirlooms. 

  • More than one-in-five men (22%) have left their music collection compared to 12% of women – something also perceived as very sentimental
  • Books feature in 16% of Wills
  • Family cooking recipes have been left by 4% of people
  • 3% have left wine and other drinks
  • Personal family secrets that have never been disclosed have also been written into 3% of Wills

Technology is having a significant impact on what we inherit too. To date, only 1% of people have inherited technology (laptops, iPads, iPods, digital cameras, TVs), but almost a fifth (18%) say they have written these items into their own Wills. One-in-five 18-24 year olds also believe they are set to inherit technology from relatives, compared to only 7% of over 65s. Very few people have made their family or friends aware of their digital assets e.g. online accounts, records or files held online that have financial or sentimental value, therefore failing to consider whether they would like to try to ensure that their digital persona lives on after they have gone. Overall, 4% have included digital assets such as passwords to online music libraries, in their Wills and only 3% expect to receive them.    

Christina Blacklaws, Director of Policy at Co-op Legal Services, continues:

"It’s important to remember that Wills are about so much more than money. Everyone should write one to make sure their loved ones receive what matters – whether financially or sentimentally valuable.”

For further information about Wills and inheritance, click here.

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