Research carried out by Co-op Legal Services* has found that over half of adults in the UK expect to receive an inheritance from a friend or relative. However, with nearly half of the UK population having yet to make a Will, those individuals banking on an inheritance could find themselves sorely disappointed.
Why Do People Expect An Inheritance?
A third said that they had been told by a loved one that they are a Beneficiary of their Will, so they assume that they will receive an inheritance on this basis. Only 12% of people have had the opportunity to read the Will in question.
In total, over a quarter of people said that they simply assume they are set to receive an inheritance as they are the next of kin, although they have no guarantee of this.
How Have People Planned To Spend Their Inheritance?
With the expectation of a windfall on the horizon, most people have put some thought into how they would spend this money. Over a quarter said that they would put it into savings, 22% said that they would invest it and 14% would make home improvements. Others said that they would pay off the mortgage, pass it on to the next generation, pay for further education, get on the property ladder or spend it on a holiday.
A further 4% of those expecting to receive an inheritance said that they'd actually already spent it, despite the fact that it had not yet materialised!
The Reality of Inheritance without a Will
If someone dies without a valid Will in place, this is known as dying intestate. In these circumstances, strict inheritance laws come into play to determine how the deceased's Estate should be distributed to those left behind. Any wishes that have previously been voiced by the deceased will not have any bearing. For these to be acknowledged they would need to be formally set out in writing in a legally valid Will.
These inheritance laws are called the Rules of Intestacy, and they place the relatives of the deceased into a strict order of priority. Spouses or civil partners are at the top of this list and, depending on the value of the Estate, they could be set to inherit everything. For some larger Estates, the spouse will receive the majority with a lesser proportion of the Estate being divided between the deceased's children. Next in line would be grandchildren or great grandchildren, followed by parents, then siblings and so on.
Unmarried partners or those not in a civil partnership are disregarded under these rules, so without a Will they would be set to inherit nothing at all from their partner, even if they had lived together for a long time. In addition, stepchildren are not recognised under the Rules of Intestacy. For more information, see Stepchildren, Wills and Inheritance.
As a result, there could be a number of loved ones that would miss out entirely if the deceased didn't have a Will in place. This could come as a nasty shock for those left behind, particularly unmarried partners who could potentially find themselves in financial trouble if the home they live in is owned in their deceased partner's name. By making a Will, it's possible to set out exactly who should receive what and in what proportions, regardless of what the formal relationship is.
How Important Is It to Make a Will?
The best way, therefore, to ensure that inheritance is passed on to the right people is to make a Will setting out exactly what should happen, so there's no confusion when the time comes. A Will that has been professionally drafted should cover all the basis, ensuring clarity for your loved ones.
As Head of Wills, Solicitor James Antoniou, explains:
"The importance of having a valid Will can never be over-estimated. Too many people die without a Will and this often leads to confusion and complexity for the families left behind.
"Many people wrongly think that their loved ones will automatically inherit their assets when they die – but if a person dies without a legally valid will in place, they lose control over who receives their property, money and possessions when they die. This is not something that I think many people would really want, if they were more aware of it."
With Co-op Legal Services, your Will is drafted by an experienced Will writer, who can discuss your circumstances with you in detail and tailor your Will to your individual needs. You can rest assured that when the time comes, your wishes will be set out for your loved ones in a robust, legally valid and comprehensive Will.
For initial advice about making a Will call our Will writers on 03306069591 or contact us online and we will help you.
* Research conducted by Atomik on behalf of Co-op among 2,000 adults in March 2018.