- Many couples avoid hard conversations about what will happen after they die
- Staying quiet can lead to family fall-outs and expensive legal fees
- Have you shared contents of your will with close family? Take our poll below
Married people with a will are evenly split over whether to discuss inheritance decisions with family members or leave them in the dark, new research reveals.
The overwhelming majority of married couples have a will, but some 20 per cent say they haven’t sorted one out yet.
Among those who haven’t discussed who inherits what with children or other family members, 31 per cent said they didn’t need to be involved and 39 per cent said it was too early to share such details with them.
Some 19 per cent felt a talk about inheritance would be uncomfortable, found the survey by financial services provider Wesleyan.
Have you told your closest family what’s in your will? Take our poll below
The findings suggest many couples are avoiding hard conversations about what will happen after they die, and are passing the buck to their children and wider families and creating the potential for arguments, according to the mutual.
Couples could be storing up family problems for the future by not being open about their inheritance plans, leading to fall-outs and expensive legal fees, adds Wesleyan.
> How to talk to your family about inheritance: Find ways to broach the issue below
Previous research has found inheritance disputes are on the rise, a trend lawyers put down to the intricacies of modern family life – people are more likely to marry several times, or live together without getting married – and rising property prices.
Meanwhile, just 4 per cent of estates are liable for inheritance tax, but the number is rising due to frozen thresholds and the property price boom catching more bereaved people in the net.
The Wesleyan study also found 74 per cent of married people have already agreed with their spouse who should inherit their money and property after they both die.
Among those who have not decided, 40 per cent have not yet discussed it, 25 per cent are unsure, and 11 per cent plan to let their children sort it out after they are gone.
Some 10 per cent say it is a difficult conversation to have, and 8 per cent reckon they won’t agree. Wesleyan surveyed 2,000 married adults of all ages across the UK.
Linda Wallace, a director at Wesleyan, says: ‘There’s no doubt that talking with children and family about what will happen after you die can be uncomfortable and upsetting.
‘However, it’s also true that communicating openly with your loved ones about this important issue can lead to better outcomes for everyone involved, both financially and emotionally.’
She adds: ‘If you aren’t both in agreement over who should inherit your estate, this can have terrible financial outcomes from an inheritance tax point of view, creating lengthy and expensive delays to the probate process which are in no one’s best interests.
‘Losing a loved one is one of the most painful things anyone can go through. Dealing with that person’s estate after they’ve gone can be incredibly emotional too, especially if it throws up unexpected surprises and raises unanswered questions.’
How to tackle the topic of inheritance with your family
Linda Wallace, director at Wesleyan, offers the following advice to anyone deciding how to pass on their assets after they die.
1. Schedule time with your family and friends to talk candidly about your inheritance plans, and how other people could make the most of any money or assets – like a house – that you want to leave them.
Hearing about your loved ones’ ambitions for their lives may help you decide how your estate plan can benefit them the best.
A cash lump sum could be used as a deposit to buy a house, for example, while for younger relatives, a trust might be more appropriate.
2. Ask your beneficiaries if there is anything in your estate that they would like to inherit, like an heirloom or an object to which they have a particular sentimental attachment.
You can include this in your will. If this isn’t specified, there’s a risk that it’s snapped up by someone else, or that it becomes a point of conflict – the last thing any group of family or friends need.
3. Once you have a firm estate plan in place, it may be a good idea to share it with your beneficiaries, to explain what you have decided to do with your estate and why, so they aren’t left with any unanswered questions after you’ve gone.
Uncertainty or misunderstandings can again lead to conflict. In the worst cases, this conflict may need to be settled with legal support – which can mean cost and additional emotional strain.
4. Make sure people know where all your important documents are kept, like your will and details of any bank accounts and investments, so they can deal with the immediate practicalities, like paying bills or settling tax.
5. Consider seeking the support of a professional like a lawyer or a financial adviser. As well as being able to help with any technical details around wills, they can also be helpful intermediaries as they are experts in helping guide what may be emotive and difficult discussions to achieve the best outcome for what you want.