Disputes over Wills could soar according to research from Saga Legal Solutions. A third of over 50s say their financial or family circumstances have changed significantly since they last updated their Will.
One in five (17%) have become grandparents and one in ten have moved house without updating their Will, which can set families at war - you just have to look at the schism it caused Will and Ed Grundy in 'The Archer's' when a relative left all the money to Will because Ed was born after she made her Will. In this instance, if the relative had updated her Will when the second nephew came along, she wouldn't have accidentally disinherited him.
Similarly, if a person's Will contains gifts then they may become disproportionate if their circumstances change and their Will is not updated. For example if someone decides to leave their property to their children and the small amount of cash they have to a charity. If these people in later life decide to downsize, exchanging the large family home for a small purpose built flat, leaving residuary cash of £500,000 and do not update their Will, then they could end up with the children only receiving the small flat with the £500,000 plus cash held going to the charity.
Also, the law is constantly evolving, therefore it is wise to check that your Will is still valid in this regard. Solicitors recommend people look over their Will every two or three years to check that it is relevant for their circumstances. However just one in seven (14%) over 50s check their Will this regularly. Just under half (44%) say they review their will every 3-5 years, however a third say that they have never reviewed their Will.
As well as ensuring a Will is up to date it is important that people have the correct Will for their circumstances. The right Will depends on the value and complexity of someone's estate and family relationships. Almost half (46%) of over 50s have a single Will, 31% have a mirror Will and 13% have a Will with trust, rather worryingly one in 10 over 50s does not know what sort of a Will they have.
Roger Ramsden, chief executive, Saga Services, commented: "Only two thirds of people do the right thing and get a Will written. However, once you have a Will you need to review it regularly and ensure you update it when your circumstances change. Keeping it up to date is the only way to ensure that your wishes will be carried out after you have gone. It also helps family members when sorting your affairs at such a distressing time."
Saga’s legal service makes it easy to write a new Will or check that an existing one deals with any changes in someone's situation that have occurred since their Will was written. It may be possible for Saga to help people save money on the cost of estate administration with some simple changes to their Will. An initial consultation by phone is free and could help people maximise their legacy and safeguard their loved ones.
Notes to editors:
* Populus interviewed 8,402 Saga customers, all aged 50 and over, online between 14th and 20th December 2012. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
About Saga Wills and Estate Planning Service
• Free telephone assessment of customer needs in terms of complexity of will/estate planning required
• Fixed prices, agreed upfront
• Wills printed on acid free paper, bound and stored in secure document vault
What are the different types of Will available and who do they suit?
Suitable for an individual making a Will, this type of Will includes:
• Appointment of Executors
• Noting any gifts
• Nominating a beneficiary who will receive the remainder of the Estate after all other beneficiaries have received their inheritance and all debts have been paid (residual beneficiary).
A mirror Will produces two Wills that will be largely identical in content, but will mirror each other.
This type of Will is appropriate for people who intend to leave their Estate to their spouse and then to alternative beneficiaries on the surviving spouse’s death.
A trust is an arrangement whereby assets are handed over to a number of individuals to hold and invest on behalf of someone else. This can be an immediate post death interest Will (the beneficiaries are specified now, for example – I give my Estate to A for her life and then to B) or discretionary trust Will (wide discretion is given to the trustees to benefit those individuals who most need it, for example – I give my Estate to my trustees with wide discretion to benefit any of the following: my children, my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews etc.).
Your share (or half share in the property) is put into trust to protect the value of it for your beneficiaries. This is a useful tool if you are concerned about preserving your Estate and want to protect it from being used to pay for care home fees for your spouse after your death.
These trusts allow someone to benefit immediately on your death whilst safeguarding the value of the assets for others. This type of arrangement is becoming more common as people divorce, remarry and have 'second' families as in this example :
Mr. and Mrs. Smith are married; Mr. Smith has two children from a previous relationship. Mr. Smith wants to ensure Mrs. Smith is looked after when he dies but he also wants to benefit his two children. Using a flexible trust, Mrs. Smith would be able to continue living in any property and would be entitled to the income from any cash but the house and the cash lump sum would be protected and pass to his children on Mrs. Smith's death.
Keeping the trust flexible means that the trustees can advance £10,000 to the spouse if she wanted to redecorate; end the trust and advance the total fund to the spouse if the children decide they don't need it; or if the spouse is going into a care home, can bring the trust to an end and advance the sums to the children.
These trusts can be the most useful type of trusts – rather than deciding now how you would like your Estate to be split, you can leave it up to the trustees to decide depending on the circumstances as they are when you die. These can also be extremely useful if you have a beneficiary in receipt of Government benefits. To place their inheritance into a discretionary trust does not affect their entitlement to means tested benefits. These trusts are also advisable with disabled beneficiaries. Unmarried couples can also benefit from considerable inheritance tax savings if they use this type of trust.