No will? Your family will inherit a nightmare
Increasingly tricky family set-ups could leave millions facing financial penalties if relatives die without writing a will, finds Harry Brennan
Millions of people are piling pressure on their families by not getting their affairs in order before they die. Many do not even make a will, leaving bereaved relatives to untangle their estates. If something goes wrong, it is the administrator – typically a close family member or friend who makes sure assets are passed to the right people – who is responsible and financially liable, even if they have hired a solicitor for help.
Over half of the adult population of Britain, more than 29 million people, have not written a will, according to Direct Line, the insurer. Those aged between 18 and 34 are the most likely not to have made provisions – 71pc have no will. However, 34pc of those aged over 55, close to seven million people, also have no written instructions for how their legacy should be passed on. This means that if any of those over-55s were to die tomorrow, their wealth would be subject to the rules of intestacy.
These rules say that the estate must pass to the closest surviving kin: spouses first, up to £250,000; then children; then grandchildren; then any surviving parents; then siblings; and so on down the line of relatives. If you have no surviving family, the estate goes to the Crown.
However, experts have warned that increasingly complex family arrangements, with relatives often living abroad, mean identifying the next of kin is not always simple.
Telegraph Money reader Paul Ward, 71, is pursuing a claim against the administrator of his late father’s estate – a distant cousin who is now on the hook for almost £30,000.
Mr Ward was born Paul Dooley in 1947. His parents divorced four years later and he subsequently lost contact with his father, changing To ease the burden on your family, you can leave behind a box or folder of key documents. Gavin Holt of funeral provider Co-op suggests the following:
Keep the original with your solicitor, but have a copy to hand.
Again, keep the original with a professional, but make a copy for your records.
Information on bank accounts, pensions, Isas and direct share holdings should all be available so that your family can add up your assets correctly.
Equally, outstanding debts or lines of credit should be included.
Make sure you keep a list of all the online accounts, such as email and social media, that will need to be closed down. You could also include passwords to provide access to digital assets such as music and films.
Gifts and loans
If you have made gifts or loans, even informally, you should keep a list recording the details. This will help your family when they are filling out inheritance tax forms.
If you have ever received professional advice on tax planning for death, include the contact details of the firm you used, and note down any steps you have taken.
American soul legend Aretha Franklin, seen at a New York Aids gala in 2017, died in August without leaving a will