• Emma Walsh

Half of UK wills out of date: SFE launches “update your will” week

Updated: Jun 7

Research commissioned by SFE has revealed that almost half (47%) of brits who have a will haven’t updated it for more than five years, meaning nearly half of wills in the UK are likely to be out-of-date. Of those, a third (33%) haven’t updated it for over 7 years, and a fifth (21%) haven’t dusted it off in more than a decade.

SFE’s research has revealed that:

  • Almost half (44%) of people realise the law decides who will inherit your assets if you don’t have a will in place.

  • Only a third of people (33%) realise that a couple living together without marriage or civil partnership won’t inherit each other’s assets without a will in place.

  • Only a third of people (34%) realise their spouse (wife, husband, civil partner) won’t automatically inherit their full estate without a will in place.

This year, SFE, a membership body representing over 1,600 solicitors specialising in working with older and vulnerable people, has launched “Update Your Will Week” (28th March – 3rd April) in a bid to raise awareness of the importance of updating your will regularly.


Solicitors recommend that a will be reviewed and updated every five years, or when a major change in your life occurs that impacts you or your loved ones, such as divorce, marriage, a new birth or even death in the family. SFE’s research has revealed that almost a third of people (31%) with a will have had significant changes to their lives and circumstances since they drafted it.


SFE has warned that an unchecked and outdated will could cause severe implications for loved ones after death – including missed inheritances and higher inheritance tax fees. In fact, one in ten British families (11%) have been caught out by a “bad will” – a will that is out of date or badly drafted – for example missing out on inheritance or their childhood home being sold without their knowledge.


Having an up-to-date and well drafted will is crucial in ensuring that clients wishes are carried out in the way they’d like when they die.


Other misunderstandings about wills include:

  • Only 16% of people realise that remarrying invalidates a will

  • Less than a third (31%) of people realise stepchildren won’t be included in a will unless stipulated that separately.

  • 17% of people think a will can be updated by making changes on the original document and initialling them.

In addition, the organisation has raised concerns over the drop in will uptake since the pandemic – the number of brits over the age of 40 who have a will in place has dropped from 65% in 2020, to 54% in 2022 – that’s over 10%.


Michael Culver, Chair of SFE, has said:

“We’ve launched Update Your Will Week to highlight how important it is to review your will. It’s frightening to learn that so few people know that life changes – such as remarrying – can render your will useless. The implications of this are far great than simple delays in executing your estate. Many individuals that you love and care for could miss out on the inheritance you intended to pass on to them; or worse, this could lead to lengthy delays and devastating family disputes.


Reviewing your legal documents frequently is good practice and can help prevent and minimise these issues.


Your wishes, as well as your circumstances, may also change over time. Take this week as an opportunity to reflect on your previous will and seek the advice of your solicitor to discuss these possible changes.


We’d always recommend you seek the advice of a legal professional who is equipped to offer you tailored guidance and advise on the best way to formalise your wishes.”

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