British over-50s are '50 shades of grey' when it comes to wills

New research reveals majority of Brits’ wills are out of date or non-existent

70% of British adults aged over 50 don’t have a valid will, according to new research released today by QualitySolicitors, the UK’s leading network of solicitors.

And of those who did create a will before their 50th birthday, almost half (46%) admit a major life change has occurred since they last updated it. 

This laid-back approach to making and maintaining a will is leading to many ‘shades of grey’ amongst UK families, which in turn is leaving wills more open to dispute. This is in-spite of the fact that over two-thirds (69%) of the over 50s admit they wouldn’t be completely confident that their family members would know how to attend to their wishes or distribute their assets in the event of their sudden death.

The alarming findings not only highlight a lack of urgency amongst older Brits in getting their affairs in order, it also shows how many don’t realize how important it is to keep their will updated as their and their family’s lives change over the years.

For example, a quarter (24%) of over 50s who have created a will have not updated their document for over five years, with one in 10 (10%) leaving it untouched for over a decade. Nearly half (46%) admit they have never reviewed their will, despite many major life changes occurring since they made it, including:

  • Almost a quarter (22%) have a new grandchild they’d now want to be considered
  • One in five (20%) have either bought or sold a property
  • One in 10 (11%) have a new daughter or son in law following their child’s wedding
  • One in 16 (6%) have come into an additional significant amount of money that should be taken into account

Shades of grey creating stress

Whilst many of the over 50s wills need considerable work, it is at least encouraging to note that 41% say they would feel ‘comfortable’ talking about their will at this time in their life

In contrast,  it is clear that many younger Brits simply don’t want to begin to think about their Wills - just a quarter (25%) of all those questioned say it’s something they feel comfortable thinking about. Over one in 10 (13%) worry about what it’ll cover. For thirty-somethings, one in five (19%) feel embarrassed about discussing personal matters with a third party, leading to a quarter (23%) of this age group feeling ‘irresponsible’ for not creating a Will. One in six (15%) feel stressed because they know they need to look at it but claim they ‘don’t have the time’.

Nia Wharry, wills Expert at QualitySolicitors, commented:  “In our experience it is the Shades of Grey in wills that always cause the issues and disputes. Wills are there to bring clarity at a time of huge sadness and loss. It is concerning to hear that almost three-quarters of UK over - 50s are currently without a valid, up-to-date will document. Will documents are critical to ensuring that the final wishes of the deceased are recognised. Unless we change the way in which we view will documents, we are heading towards an explosion in the number of acrimonious will settlements in the UK’

Will barriers

It appears that fears about the cost of creating a will is acting as the main barrier to over 50s creating a will. 1 in 4 (25%) of the over 50s say they have delayed creating a will as they are worried about the potential costs involved.  The British stiff upper lip is also a barrier for some when it comes to writing wills, with one in seven (14%) of the over 50s admitting they have yet to create or update a will because they don’t like talking about death.

Unsurprisingly, the idea of making a will is seen as ‘too much hassle’ for 21% of all UK adults, despite most will consultations being finished within an hour. For others, making or updating a will simply ‘hasn’t occurred’ to them (18%). For one in five (21%), the belief that they ‘don’t have any assets to make it worthwhile’ is what stops them making a will.

Across the UK

People in Wales are the most likely to keep an up to date will (28%), closely followed by those in Northern Ireland (25%). Adults in the North West are the least likely to have their affairs in place, with a mere 17% of people in possession of a valid will document. Adults in the West Midlands (18%) and East Midlands (18%) are similarly poorly prepared.

Addressing the issue

Over a quarter (26%) feel that a frank face to face discussion with family members would ease the worries they have around their will, while a third (31%) of under 60s would find it useful to discuss their will in an independent forum with their family members.

Nia Wharry of QualitySolicitors comments: ‘Our message is simple. Sorting your will doesn’t have to be as daunting as it might seem. In many cases it can be sorted in a straightforward one-hour appointment that can save your relatives a lifetime of pain and difficulty. At QualitySolicitors we’re so committed to the need for regular reviews that we offer these free to our clients every five years. We’re also happy to conduct will meetings with a number of family members at one time as many find tackling their wills collectively reassuring.’


Notes to Editors

The wills research was conducted in October by OnePoll and asked over 1000 UK respondents for their views.

About QualitySolicitors:

  • Launched in 2010, QualitySolicitors is a group of law firms across the country working as part of the QualitySolicitors brand. Only one firm per local area is selected to become a QualitySolicitors partner. Customer feedback forms an integral part of the selection process.
  • QualitySolicitors’ national network of lawyers consists of over 100 branches across England and Wales.
  • QualitySolicitors lawyers are experts in their fields dealing with both consumer and SME legal matters. QualitySolicitors offers a personal, local service but with the assurance of a recognised national brand.
  • QualitySolicitors’ website address is
  • In 2011 QualitySolicitors secured equity investment from Palamon Capital Partners, a private equity house with a £700m fund.

Expert legal advice you can rely on,
get in touch today

Please let us know you are not a robot