RSS Feed

Related Articles

Related Categories

Wills hit the wall with demise of the traditional nuclear family

16th February 2012 Print

Parents of extended families that include step and adopted children are almost twice as likely as those with natural children to put off drawing up a will or revising its contents, according to a study by Investec Wealth & Investment (“IW&I”).

One in five (20%) parents with natural born sons and daughters has avoided creating or amending a will because they are unable to decide how to divide their assets amongst the family and many parents fear the outcome will upset their children. However this figure rises to 35% and 47% among parents with stepchildren and adopted children respectively. 

Investec’s research suggests that millions of parents risk excluding their children and step children from a share of their estate because they have neither drafted a will nor kept it updated. 5.6 million (19%) parents have had two or more relationships that have led them to become legally responsible for children while 12% and 13% of parents have at least one stepson and stepdaughter respectively. However, IW&I warns that stepchildren have no natural entitlement to an inheritance regardless of how long they have been in the family unit.

The study shows how parents have very different views on how to allocate their inheritance between their children: almost one in three parents (31%) are not planning to divide up their assets evenly between their children.  Around 5% will leave more to their natural children than their stepchildren and / or those that have been adopted, and 4% of parents plan to allocate their inheritance according to need, prioritising children who require the most help.  Furthermore, 6% of parents have chosen to exclude their children from their wills altogether.  

While parents of extended families often stumble around how to divide up their inheritance, IW&I’s research shows that (39%) of parents don’t even have a will.  Of those that do, over half (51%) have never amended the contents and a further 26% have done so only once, suggesting many wills are out of date. 

Of those parents who have revised their will in the past five years, 13% did so to add or remove a family member from the list of beneficiaries, 7% changed their marital status and 4% revised the amounts allocated to their children.

Chris Aitken, head of financial planning, Investec Wealth & Investment, said: “Families, second families, stepfamilies and the extended relations of each unit can create a complicated web of relatives and our research clearly shows that many parents in this type of situation are more likely to avoid untangling this through writing a will.  Given the unintended consequences of doing nothing it’s even more important to ensure that those left behind are properly provided for. For example, couples each with children from a first marriage are likely to want them to receive ‘their share’ of the estate but without a will, it’s difficult to guarantee this will happen. 

“If a will hasn’t been made then the work required to distribute funds is far more complex and may ultimately mean that those intended to benefit through an inheritance such as children from first marriages may not actually receive anything. 

“It’s always wise to write a will detailing precisely how assets and funds should be distributed and this is particularly important for parents with large and extended families.”