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Give the gift that keeps on giving – are you in the 54% of the population without a will?

At this time of year we are finalising our Christmas wish lists including the latest gadgets, clothes and confectionaries. I have very fond childhood memories of flicking through the latest Argos catalogue, frantically circling all of the items to include on my list.

Yet when it comes to perhaps our most important wishes of all, the latest research shows that over half of the population in the UK do not have a will in place. The findings collated by Royal London reveal 54% of the adult population do not have a will and of those, 24% said they have no intention of making one.

You may be thinking, "So what? Even if I don't have a will, my estate will pass to my spouse, children or parents under the intestacy rules, which is what I want to happen anyway."

However, it is concerning for the increasing number of cohabiting couples and families. The Office of National Statistics’ latest figures put cohabiting couple families as the second largest family type at 3.3 million families. Unmarried, cohabiting partners do not have any rights under the rules of intestacy, regardless of the length of the relationship or the number of children they have with their partner. Furthermore, if their partner had previously married and had never divorced then, at the date of their death, regardless of the length of separation, their surviving spouse could be set to receive the majority of the estate if they die without a will.

Furthermore, the research concludes that 6 in 10 parents either do not have a will or their current will is out of date. This is particularly concerning as a will is not only an opportunity to set out your wishes for how your estate will pass on your death but also an opportunity to determine who should be appointed as the legal guardian of your children in the event of your death.

The recent High Court decision in Ubbi v Ubbi is a stark reminder of the implications an out of date will can have on young children.

In Ubbi, the minor children of the deceased had to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision from their late father’s estate. Despite initiating divorce proceedings to formally separate from his wife, when Mr Ubbi died suddenly (prior to the decree absolute being pronounced) the only valid will he left appointed his wife as his sole executrix and residuary beneficiary. Mr Ubbi had not updated his will after the birth of his two young children, therefore neither they nor their mother (Mr Ubbi’s new partner), received any provision from his £3.5 million estate.

It can be difficult to contemplate who will look after your children in the event of your death or what share of your estate your children or partner should receive, particularly during this festive season but the gift of financial security for the future, could be the best gift you could give your family this year.

“It is incredibly important to have a will, not just to protect your finances but to make sure vital decisions, such as who will look after your children, are noted. Once you have a will, you should update it after any significant life events that could affect your financial situation, such as getting married, divorced or starting a family. Taking these important steps allows you to have peace of mind knowing that when you’re gone your wishes will be met.” Mona Patel, Royal London