Brought to you by our friends at Vincents Solicitors
Dying without a will – or intestate – is an unfortunately common problem. As of 2014, 48% of the UK’s 64 million population had not made a will. This represents at least £250million of untapped business for UK based solicitors; each one of those 33 million people is a potential client of the future.
It isn’t just bad news from a business perspective. For clients and their families – who, in a large proportion of cases, have not made a conscious decision to avoid writing a will, instead simply forgetting or putting it off for later – it represents a potential disaster.
Why Are Wills Important?
When somebody dies intestate, the decision as to where assets are placed is made by the courts based on a raft of rules. Often – if the person dies with no known kin - that inheritance can go directly to the state. In the six years from 2006 to 2012, over £1m of bona vacantia property was inherited by the Duchy. It can also, in some cases, go to a person with whom the person has little to no contact or relationship. There have been thousands of cases in which a cohabitant or long-term partner of the deceased has been legally unentitled to inheritance; despite what would have usually been agreed was intended.
In some cases, this happens when estates are particularly big: celebrities such as Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, Bob Marley and Stieg Larsson all died either with an out-of-date will - or without one at all. In each case, this causes problems for the relatives of the deceased.
No Will = Problems for All
Amy Winehouse’s parents inherited her £3million fortune after she died in 2011, leaving her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil with nothing; Heath Ledger’s will was out-of-date, accidentally leaving his then 3 year-old daughter Matilda out of his inheritance. Bob Marley’s $30million estate was fought over by dozens of claimants, including his 9 children, when he died intestate in 1981, and Stieg Larsson’s estate was inherited by his father and brother, as opposed to his long-term partner, when he died in 2004. The latter was particularly contested, and Larsson’s former partner has battled for literary control of his works ever since.
Whilst these would be expected to cast a spotlight on the importance of creating a will, little impact seems to have been made on the number of people who are preparing for their families after their own deaths.
Many people cite lack of urgency as a reason for not creating a will; viewing themselves as somehow infallible; ‘too young’ to consider what will happen after the inevitable.
The above examples show that you can never be too early to plan for the future, however.
Lack of forward thinking is not only bad for legal business, but for individuals and their families; it’s so important to prepare as best as possible, especially when support which helps guide you through the process can be given via specialists wills and probate solicitors, like these. Have you written your will? How does your legal practice encourage clients to prepare their wills? Let us know in the comments below.
This post has been written by Anastasia Evans.