The ‘Changing family structures: The Will writing industry in 2018’ research paper provides new and insightful findings about the Will writing industry in the UK. It builds on the findings from our first Will writing industry report, ‘A changing landscape: The Will writing industry in 2017’. Both papers provide a general overview of the Will writing industry but this year’s report has a specific focus on changing family structures and the implications for Will writing services.
The research, conducted by an independent researcher, explores:
The proportion of UK adults who have a Will with a breakdown by demographics
The methods most commonly used to write a Will
How family dynamics impact Will writing services
What family members are most frequently named as beneficiaries
The number of people who have been in a dispute about the contents of a Will.
This research is a must-read for Will writers to understand how the industry is changing around them so we’ve conveniently summarised the highlights in this blog post.
Watch the video below for a quick overview of the research highlights or read on for more in-depth findings.
More UK adults have a Will but those most at risk still don’t have a Will
The research reveals that the proportion of UK adults with a Will has slightly increased in comparison to last year. The analysis in our first research paper – ‘A changing landscape: The Will writing industry in 2017’ – showed that only 39% of Brits currently had a Will. In 2018, the proportion of adults who have a Will has increased to 45% but there is still a large number of people who have not yet made arrangements for how their assets will be distributed.
The report reveals that 58% of adults who are married or in a civil partnership have a Will but only 30% of adults that are living as married have a Will. Additionally, one in three (33%) adults who have children in the household have written a Will. The number of cohabiting couples and parents without a Will is particularly worrying as it is more probable that their wishes will not be followed if they were to die intestate. By creating a valid Will, they could ensure that their estate is distributed as per their wishes, whilst also protecting their loved ones.
The law on Wills is likely to undergo some radical changes
The research also highlights how the law on Wills could undergo some radical changes in the coming years, following on from the Law Commission launching a public consultation with the view to reform the laws around Will writing last summer. The reforms are likely to update the laws to account for societal changes and technological and medical advances.
Of specific relevance for this research paper, the Law Commission notes that one of the significant changes relevant to a review of Wills law includes “changing patterns of family life, for example, more cohabiting couples and more people having second families”. The potential legislative changes may help the law catch up with the changes in some family structures. This could mean that the reforms may consider changing the rule that marriage should revoke a Will, therefore reducing some of the discrepancies between married and unmarried couples.
Will writers call for awareness to be raised through public campaigns
Interviews were conducted with Will writers and legal professionals in order to get their view on the industry findings. Many of the interviewees noted that a lack of information or misinformation had resulted in adults not taking steps to think about writing a Will. In part, this was due to the nature of the subject, but also not being armed with the information to act. Many interviewees suggested that awareness raising through public campaigns would help address this issue, with some direct and pertinent messages. The following statements highlight some of the approaches that could be adopted to support better decisions around Will writing.
“The problem is the audience of the message. A lot of the information in the press is incorrect. If you try to advertise, it reminds people that they need to write a Will – they don’t know why or what it will achieve. It will provide a prompt but not a call to action. It is a really difficult issue. A lot of people have a problem talking about death until it touches them and then something may have gone wrong. It is a complicated situation.
It is more about education – but you have to make them want to drink the water by pointing out what will happen if they don’t do it. There is no immediate gain and they don’t personally benefit. So there has be real motivation.”
- Cherry Shiel, Cardinal Wills
“STEP is endeavouring to work with the media to try and highlight the importance of Wills. We are aware that the statistics are low and that more people should be considering their Wills. There is a degree of nervousness about going to see an advisor. A lot of people don’t know what their assets are or what their tax relief provisions might be. They may not have considered their pension, their life insurance, or how their family home is held at the land registry.”
- Emily Deane, STEP
“People entering their second marriage should be told that they are about to revoke their Will and disinherit their children because you say ‘everything I have, I give to you’. This information should be given to you when you marry and it is a tough message to give at that time. Most second marriages don’t take place in a church and the official will be a registrar, who is a good person to give you that message. They could tell you that you are about to revoke your Will at that planning stage. All newlyweds should be more informed. It is easy to pass the message that if you get married, you need a new Will but no one ever tells you that.”
- Neil Fraser, Northumberland Wills & Probate
If you want to find out more about the Will writing industry in 2018, download your own copy of the report today.