Millions of families across the UK could face huge arguments because most people have not made a Will.
The comments come after a new survey found that 68 per cent of UK adults are what is known as “intestate” – equivalent to nearly 28 million people.
Meanwhile, the survey found that 70 per cent think their families will easily split their assets after they are gone.
But Katherine Ellis, a Senior Associate Solicitor in the Dispute Resolution team at Thursfields’ Kidderminster office, explained that no Will means estates are left to the mercy of the intestacy rules – which may be contrary to the deceased’s actual wishes.
Katherine said: “This research shows how people are under the misapprehension that their family will easily agree decisions regarding their estate, but we’re increasingly seeing this is far from reality.
Contentious issues range from who should take responsibility for overseeing the administration of the estate, to funeral arrangements and whether the deceased would have wished to be buried or cremated.
In other cases, friends and certain family members who, in absence of a Will, the law does not recognise as beneficiaries receive no benefit from the estate.
Instances can also arise where distant relatives whom the deceased had little or no contact have an automatic legal entitlement to benefit from an estate, but a non-blood relative who was far closer to the deceased, such as a cohabitee, does not.
There are potential legal avenues available to explore in such cases, but it is a complex area of law with stringent timescales. Anyone who finds themselves in such situations should seek specialist legal advice as a priority.”
The survey, published by Remember a Charity, also found widespread confusion about how complicated it is to sort out a Will, and who inherits if you die without one.
It said a third of people assume their partner and children will automatically inherit, and a similar number believe they only need a Will if they are very wealthy.
Katherine added: “It’s important that people appreciate the need to make a Will, irrespective of the value of their estate, as they will surely want all their wishes respected.
But if anyone ever doubts that what a deceased clearly wanted is not happening, Thursfields has expertise in cases like these and can help.”
Anyone with estate issues can contact Katherine Ellis on 0121 647 5419, extension 5419, or at email@example.com.