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Wills and Probate in 2017

Kathryn Doogue, director and Head of Private Client at Kirkham Legal, has been reviewing the YouGov Wills and Probate surveys for 3 years ending 2016, and noticed some interesting facts, figures and trends which she thought would be beneficial to share:-

In respect of Wills:-

• Making a Will remains a low priority for most people
• Less than 40% of people have a Will
• More people in the age group 45 to 54 have prepared Wills
• Of those without Wills, the major issues were simply they “had not got round to it”, or they were too young.
• DIY Wills are increasing, with now just over 1 in 10 preparing their own, but solicitors still dominate the market.
• The majority of people preparing Wills appoint family and friends to be executors.
• People want fixed fees to be offered by solicitors
• It is acknowledged that a Will enables your estate to be distributed as intended.
• The “triggers” that prompt the preparation or the changing of wills are, in decreasing terms, separation, having children, marriages, a change in health, death of a loved one or financial reasons (such as a windfall).
• Individual recommendations are important

Kathryn comments, “We would always advise our clients to prepare a Will, as the cost is not excessive and is agreed in advance on a fixed fee basis. In our opinion, a professionally drawn Will is preferable to a DIY Will, as you are gaining the benefit of our experience and can safely rely upon the same, which you often do not get by doing your own Will and then hoping that the same is correct. A Will can be defective, so it is important to get good legal advice. We also advise all of our clients that they should review their Wills every 2 to 3 years even if this simply means getting it out and checking that the terms are still relevant to you. It may be the case that it does need changing if, for example, a new child or grandchild has been born. An amendment to a Will is not expensive either, and ensures that your wishes are met”.

In respect of Probate/Intestacy:-

• In 2014, 250,000 families went through the Probate Court process with 63% using the services of a law firm.
• Only 10% of people understand and know the Intestacy Rules.
• 34% of people had never heard of the Intestacy Rules.
• Over 70% of people do not know the Inheritance Tax threshold.
• A quarter did not know anything about IHT.
• Over 40% did not know the rate of IHT on a taxable estate.
• Fixed fees were gaining popularity in probate cases.
• More people were attempting the probate application process themselves each year.

Kathryn further comments:- “These figures show that whilst the public’s perception of what is involved in probate and intestacy cases is improving and increasing, there is still a large proportion of people who have to deal with such matters who are lacking an in-depth knowledge of the process, and who would benefit from early legal advice. If we are approached, we can explain what is likely to be involved, the timescale and the likely cost to the estate. We can also discuss whether we can help out in part, rather than dealing with the whole estate (so as to limit costs) by, for example, preparing the Probate application papers only, with the client dealing with everything else”.

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