Dangerous misconceptions about wills

Many people are in the dark about how wills work, new research shows.

Tom Harrison
Content writer
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Posted 23 NOVEMBER 2019

Nearly three in five UK adults don’t have a will – and many have the wrong idea about how they work and what will happen to their money and property if they die without one, a new survey shows.

November is Will Aid month when many solicitors waive fees for writing basic wills and invite clients to make a charity donation instead. Mutual insurer Royal London decided to test the public’s knowledge of wills, and results reveal that not only do 57% of people not have one, there are many misconceptions about wills and how they work. Here are five misconceptions the Royal London research uncovered.

My children will be cared for by my immediate family if I die without a will

Nearly two in five people – 39% – think immediate family would automatically have legal responsibility for children if their parents die without a will.

In fact, if there’s no will, the responsibility for dependent children under 18 goes to the courts, until it’s decided who their guardians will be.

If I separate from my spouse, my assets won’t go to them

The fact is, that until you get divorced, your ex could still be entitled to your assets. A will is technically valid even if you’re separated. The survey found that almost a third (31%) of people don’t know what would happen to their assets if they separated from their spouse.

I cohabit with my partner, so they’ll inherit my assets when I die

If you’re not married or in a Civil Partnership, your partner won’t be entitled to your assets if you die without a will. Children would have a claim on them, but if you don’t have children the assets would go to parents and siblings.

When Royal London asked who would inherit the assets of someone who was living with their partner but had children from a previous marriage, 74% gave an incorrect answer or didn’t know.

My will is valid throughout the UK

A will written in England might not be valid in Scotland – something 87% of people aren’t aware of. So if you’ve written a will in England and move to Scotland, or the other way around, you might want to get advice.

If I’m estranged from my family, they won’t inherit my assets

In Scotland, you can’t remove your children or spouse as beneficiaries – even if you don’t include them in your will. And your family can still claim on your assets, even if you’re estranged from them. Nearly two thirds (65%) don’t know this is the case, and only 21% of people living in Scotland know this rule applies there.

Keeping your will up to date

“Not having a will in place can lead to all sorts of complications, many of which the general public are not aware of,” said Mona Patel, consumer spokesperson at Royal London.

“But even with a will in place, there are misconceptions around what happens to your assets when you die. It’s important to not only write a will, but also to make sure it reflects your wishes and to keep it up to date if your circumstances change.”