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Wills: A taboo subject?

Wills: A taboo subject?

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Research by Canada Life from 20201 shows that 31 million – or 3 in 5 – adults in the UK do not have a will in place. The same research indicated that the pandemic prompted a rise in investigations into will writing, but how many of those people acted on their findings? Probably not enough..!

Perhaps surprisingly, recent research by Standard Life2 shows that 20% of Generation Z adults (18 to 24 year olds) have made a will, with 65% of these adults wanting to leave an inheritance.

Ultimately though, far too many people in the UK still don’t have a will.  We will explore why this matters and how employers can play a part in solving this issue. 

Wills and financial wellbeing
To leave an inheritance, a will is needed. Everyone should have a will, irrespective of their financial situation: protecting family and planning for the future are key components of an individual’s financial wellbeing, and having a will in place is part of the commitment to these behaviours.  Drawing up a will can also help a person better understand what assets they have and what their future value is likely to be – all part of planning for the future and enhancing financial wellbeing. Employers can help their employees by including guidance on will writing in their financial wellbeing initiatives.

What constitutes a will, and why is it so important?
A last will and testament is a legal document that determines what happens to a person’s estate (finances, property, and other assets) after their death. If a person dies without a will, there are certain rules – the rules of intestacy – which dictate how that person’s money, property or possessions should be allocated. Therefore, it is important to have a will to ensure that any money and possessions are distributed according to a person’s wishes.

Anyone can draft their own will, but it is generally advisable to have it checked to ensure it is correct and therefore legally enforceable. There are certain requirements needed to make a will legally valid. For example, it must be:

  • Made by a person 18 years old or over
  • Made by a person who is of sound mind
  • In writing
  • Signed by the person making the will, in the presence of two witnesses
  • Signed by the two witnesses, after the person making the will has signed it and in their presence

If a will is changed but not signed and witnessed, it can be invalidated.

Another key part of will planning is appointing an executor, who is the person/people responsible for carrying out the deceased person’s wishes, and sorting out that person’s estate. The executor does not have to meet any specific criteria or qualification, and can be a friend or family member.  However, since acting as an executor can be a significant responsibility, it should be someone willing to perform this role.  It is advisable to appoint two executors, and there can be up to four.  It is also possible to appoint a professional executor, who will be paid out of your estate.

A will does not have to be drawn up by a solicitor. A solicitor will charge for their services; the charges for will writing vary between solicitors and depend on its complexity.

How can employers assist their employees with creating wills?
Employers should think about offering access to a will writing service as part of their employee benefits package and/or financial wellbeing proposition, to best assist their employees with their financial wellbeing journey.  Its inevitable correlation with death makes will planning a sensitive subject – but a very important one. And there are ways to normalise this subject and make it more accessible.

A helpful way to start could be to raise awareness about Free Wills Month, which is taking place now [in March].  This is a campaign giving members of the public aged 55 and over the opportunity to have their simple wills written or updated free of charge, by using participating solicitors in selected locations across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Certain charities are associated with the campaign; people who take up the offer are given the chance to leave a gift in their will to a chosen charity, but are under no obligation to do so. More information on the campaign can be found here:


MoneyHelper can be a great source of information and provides useful tips on wills drafting; their guidance can be shared with your employees if will writing support is not part of your employee benefits offering:


As benefits are chosen, it is important to remind employees that a Beneficiary Nomination or Expression of Wish form is not the same as a will. Benefits payable from a pension plan and certain insurance policies are governed by different legislation, which means an Expression of Wish form might override a will if the beneficiaries are different.

Finally, employers can remind their employees to review both documents on a regular basis – especially after a life changing event such as buying a property – to ensure that any benefits payable on death are allocated as per their wishes.  As accessibility is so often an obstacle, it is important to inform employees who are members of your pension plan(s) that they are able to complete and update their Expression of Wish forms online, on the pension provider/administrator member portals.

By raising awareness about the importance of will writing, as well as providing practical assistance in creating one, employers can assist in closing the gap between those who do and don’t have wills in place.  Ultimately, employer support with will-related information and services can contribute to improved financial wellbeing.