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  • Ian at New Approach

‘Wills and financial planning – it’s time to talk’

It’s time for the UK to overcome the tricky topic of finances after a death

No professional can survive in a bubble, but it can be all too easy to miss wider changes in our sector – especially given recent pandemic disruption. One of the aims behind our recent

whitepaper, based on a survey of over 2,000 GB adults, was to help provide probate professionals with a detailed snapshot of attitudes to wills, financial planning and probate in the UK. One of the trends we uncovered was a startling lack of conversation around financial matters that need to be known in the event of a death. But will this reticence to tackle the tricky topics bring problems to the sector? A gap in knowledge Probate professionals will be well aware of the difficulties often posed in the unfortunate event someone passes away without leaving behind a legally valid will, and indeed there are occasions where no will or list of assets is available. In these cases, first port of call is often to reach out to the family of the deceased. However our results show this may not be an easy solution: less than a quarter of our respondents knew every bank their parents or guardians held accounts with and almost a fifth had no knowledge whatsoever of where their parents banked. Even for those who did know which institution held accounts for their parents, almost half didn’t know or wouldn’t be able to find the necessary passwords to provide access to an executor. When reviewing wider finances, the picture becomes even more unclear. Only around a tenth of GB adults knew all the details of their parents’ wider finances – from loans, to shares, tangible assets or property and mortgages – and almost three times this number had no details whatsoever of the necessary information for probate. Even respondents with partial knowledge of parents’ finances struggled when it came to more the in-depth details: only just over a third of those who know or could find their parents’ bank accounts also knew all details of these equally important wider finances. Finding the answers So, who is most likely to know the information probate professionals might need? Delving into the data, unsurprisingly we found that retirees are most likely to know their parents’ banking passwords and wider finances, on average twice that of the general populace. Given the average UK retirement age of 66, it’s sensible to assume that these respondents had particularly elderly parents who may need more day-to-day support with manging household finances. Looking at gender, our results showed that across the board, women were more likely than men to be more aware of their parents or guardians’ finances, meaning that probate professionals tasked with accounting for all a deceased assets will find more success asking daughters over sons. In contrast, we found that adults between 35-44 years old were ten per cent more likely than the UK average to not know about any of their parents’ wider finances, even higher than the youngest age group – 18-24 years old. Indeed, twenty per cent of this youngest age bracket knew all the bank accounts held by their parents, compared to only fifteen per cent of those aged 25-44. Throughout our data, one clear trend emerged: British adults simply aren’t talking about financial matters with their loved ones while they can. Regardless of the problems this can cause the probate sector – through uncertainty, or lack of communication or information – in truth it is part of a story of financial consciousness across the UK that we need to see improve. Encouraging numbers are evident in the rising financial awareness of younger generations, but probate professionals have a key role to play in helping Brits tackle the awkward topic of what family might need to know if they are gone

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