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Wills changed to make ends meet

Posted in: Research

Over 3.5 million people in Great Britain have changed their will during the past two years, with many of them selling off the family silver to help make ends meet, concludes a survey released yesterday (8 February 2011).

It indicates that around half of the adult population has made a will but worryingly, in the past two years, 15 per cent of them have disposed of assets that would have been provided in their wills.

In most cases this was due to the economic downturn.

A study of 3,000 people revealed that after family fall outs, family additions, and changes of residence, it was the selling off of assets that prompted most changes to wills in the past 24 months.

Of those who disposed of items named in a will, 67 per cent did so because they needed the money due to the recession or losing their job.  One in 10 downsized to a smaller property.

Sadly, 33 per cent of those who have made a will are concerned that by the time they die they will have spent everything they had to pass on.

Unsurprisingly, one fifth of people keep changing their minds about the contents of their will, while the same percentage worry about who should benefit from their inheritance.

Karl Elliott, at Engage Mutual, which conducted the poll of 3,000 people across Britain, said:

“Wills are an important part of life planning and are there to ensure that your wishes are carried out when you die.  It can be a complex process, and sometimes life’s twists and turns can make it more so.

“But a will can be changed to account for changes of mind.  Our research indicates that as many as 3.5 million people across Britain may have responded to their changing financial circumstances by selling off assets they had intended to leave behind.”

A quarter of those surveyed and who have made a will are already anticipating upset about a decision they have made, with 10 per cent of them feeling beneficiaries may expect more.

Friction caused by leaving assets to friends rather than family is anticipated by a similar 15 per cent of them, while those who plan to leave money to charity think it will also cause conflict.

In fact, 17 per cent of those surveyed have already fallen out with family members over someone else’s will.

The main reasons for fall-outs include money being left to animals, unequal distribution of money, and disputes with siblings.

Karl Elliott continued:

“Wills are not just about leaving property, possessions or money.  They are a formal record of  wishes regarding the care of any dependents.

“Whilst making a will may require some soul searching, or hard headed analysis, or maybe sometimes gives rise to conflict, dying without a will can lead to greater problems for family and loved ones left behind.”

Of those who haven’t yet made a will, 42 per cent of those surveyed say that they are too young and 31 per cent would consider doing so only when they have children.