Estate disputes increase due to homemade wills

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According to an FOI request made by law firm Nockolds, an increase in do-it-yourself wills has led to an increase in family disputes, with attempts to block the legal process of managing someone’s assets upon death (known as homologation name in England and Wales) jumping by 37%. Figures showed nearly 10,000 disputes over the distribution of inherited estates at English and Welsh courts and tribunals service centers in 2021, up 37% from 2019.

In response to the numbers, Clare Moffat, Pensions & Legal Expert at Royal Londonsaid:

“The pandemic has really focused people’s minds on the need to get their financial affairs in order. Death is one of the big taboo subjects that most people find incredibly difficult to talk about. But discussing plans ahead of time allows you and your loved ones to be better prepared emotionally, practically, and financially.

“Statistics show that the pandemic has been responsible for a spike in DIY will writing, possibly to save money. Although avoiding the cost of using a will maker or a lawyer may seem like a good way to save money, writing a will yourself could lead to problems and end up costing a lot more in the long run The cost of living crisis is causing many problems, but those These could be even worse if a family does not have access to money, for months or even years, after the death of the primary breadwinner.

“The law is complex and if you are unfamiliar with the process and terminology of making a will, it is too easy to invalidate it or leave it open to challenge.

“Family structures are increasingly complicated, which in turn is accompanied by difficult financial arrangements. It is therefore more important than ever to ensure that your will is legally correct. Taking financial advice can also save you money in the long run. Planning ahead can help reduce the amount of estate tax payable upon death.

“Having a will can be invaluable, especially if there are children, blended families or cohabitants. Preparing for death may seem pessimistic, but in practice it’s about making sure the people you love get what you want them to get. And that removes a lot of the complexity of the process at a time of sadness, compared to confronting the laws of the intestate.

  • More than half of adults (56%) in the UK do not have a valid will, with this figure rising to 79% for those aged 18-34.
  • Of those who don’t have a will, 47% see the value in it, but haven’t had time to make one
  • Six in ten (62%) haven’t seen their will for more than a year, and three in ten (29%) left it for more than 5 years

* Wills research commissioned by Royal London, Opinium surveyed 2,000 UK adults in September 2021

Five things you should never do when writing a will

Don’t keep putting it off

Writing a will is often never off the to-do list, but having a valid and up-to-date will is an important step in ensuring that your assets will go to those you want to receive them. You may think you don’t have a lot of assets to pass on, but if you own a home, it’s important to include it in your will. It is also important, if you have children, to express who you would like to be responsible for their care. Writing a will can seem like a daunting task, but our research found that almost nine in ten (86%) people who had written a will thought the overall process was easy.

Don’t forget to update it

It is important to consider your will as a living document, and therefore a document that reflects your stage in life. If you recently experienced a significant event such as a marriage, divorce, bought a house, inherited property, or had children, make sure your will reflects your new situation. We found that six in ten people (62%) have not reviewed their will for more than a year, with three in ten (29%) having left it for more than 5 years. Reviewing your will can be just as important as writing it.

Don’t ignore your life status

If you’re living with your unmarried partner – also known as cohabitation – it’s even more important to keep an up-to-date will as you won’t have the same automatic inheritance rights as those who are married. This means that anything that belonged to the deceased will generally go to their loved ones, even if they have been living with their partner for many years.

Don’t keep it a secret

Although no one likes to talk about death, it is essential that we have those uncomfortable conversations with our loved ones to avoid causing them problems after you are gone. Once you’ve made a will, make sure your next of kin and your executor (the person carrying out your wishes) know where to find it. This applies to all your financial documents.

Don’t forget your retirement

People often use the term ‘estate’ to refer to anything someone leaves behind when they die, but your pension will normally not form part of your estate and therefore will not be covered by your will. Instead, you should make sure you fill out a beneficiary designation form, so the pension plan knows who you want to receive it from. In some cases, the pension may be worth as much or more than the value of the assets in the estate.

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