An Age of Apathy: the new report from Collyer Bristow

Collyer Bristow today publishes the report,  ‘An Age of Apathy: Changing the conversation around wills’ which reveals that 68% of adults under the age of 50 with an income of £50k or more in the UK do not have a valid will.



Collyer Bristow today publishes the report, ‘An Age of Apathy: Changing the conversation around wills’ which reveals that 68% of adults under the age of 50 with an income of £50k or more in the UK do not have a valid will. New research commissioned by Collyer Bristow and undertaken by YouGov has revealed that whilst 4 out of 5 respondents (82%) believe that having a will is either fairly or very important, just 31% currently have one in place. Notably, 76% of 25-34-year olds surveyed and 73% of 35-44-year olds admitted they did not have a will. Among 45-50-year olds, just over half (54%) still did not have a valid will, demonstrating that apathy towards wills is a multigenerational problem.

The so-called ‘baby boomer’ generation is believed to be the wealthiest in history. Generally defined in the UK as those aged over 50, this generation is now either enjoying or approaching retirement, and the next two decades will witness the single largest shift in wealth this country has ever seen, as their children begin to inherit. However, this wealth has not translated into individuals choosing to have a will.

The reasons for not creating a will are varied. A shortage of time to create one was the most common reason given, cited by a quarter of 18-50 year olds with an income of £50k or more (25%). The second most common reasons, each stated by 17% of respondents, were that they thought they were too young to need one and believed they did not have enough assets to require a will.

Other key findings of the research included:

  • 23% presumed their assets would automatically be inherited by their partner
  • Only 46% said they would go to a legal professional to write a will
  • 1 in 2 (53%) would create a will when faced with serious illness

Just under a quarter (23%) of respondents presumed erroneously that in the absence of a will, all their assets and possessions would automatically be left to their spouse. This is a concerning misapprehension since in many common scenarios this would not be the case, for example, the assets would pass to the closest family member rather than the deceased’s partner if they were not married.

James Cook, Partner in the Tax and estate planning team at Collyer Bristow commented: “The assumption that wealth is automatically passed onto a partner is particularly alarming and a common cause of disputes. 

Similarly, when creating a will, individuals need to consider not only how to distribute their assets, but importantly, the tax implications of this.

It is concerning that of those surveyed, 89% said that they have little to no knowledge of how inheritance tax is calculated. Without preparation, it is easy for family members to be surprised by a significant inheritance tax bill, causing further distress at what is already a very difficult time.”

In deciding who they would ask to prepare their will, less than half of respondents (46%) would be most likely to go to a legal professional, and 32% of 35-44-year olds and 28% of 45-50-year olds intend to write their own wills. An improperly drafted will may not be valid and may be open to challenge.

When asked what would motivate them to create or review a will, the most common reason given, cited by 53% of respondents, was being diagnosed with a serious illness. Creating a will only when faced with serious illness can lead to problems for the family in the future as the will may be open to challenge. The second most popular trigger for creating a will was the arrival of children, with 40% saying this would prompt them to create or review a will. Surprisingly, other significant life events including getting married (only listed by 28%), buying a property (23%), and starting a business (12%), were not widely regarded as reasons to review a will.

Peter Daniel, Head of Private Wealth at Collyer Bristow, commented: “It is very concerning to see that such a large percentage of individuals do not have a will, despite realising the importance of having one.

Our research shows a clear lack of understanding of the process of making a will, the application of inheritance tax and most importantly what happens to your assets if you pass away without a will.

By having a valid will in place, individuals and families can reduce the likelihood of a dispute and ensure that all wealth is distributed as intended.”

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