But while the Law Society is highlighting the problems that can result from someone dying intestate, the truth is that writing a will can in itself cause difficulties.
Colchester-based law firm Alistair Keeble & Passmore is offering a free 'will check service' to coincide with the Law Society's Make a Will Week, which starts on Monday. It believes it may be the first solicitors' firm to offer a free service of this kind.
Alistair Keeble, a senior partner at the firm, believes that as a rule of thumb people's circumstances change substantially enough in five years to warrant a review of their will.
Mr Keeble says: 'People often regard making a will as a once-in-a- lifetime event. In fact a will needs to be kept under constant review and adapted to meet changes in financial or personal circumstances. Beneficiaries, executors or guardians may die and the original will not contain alternative clauses to cover the new situation.'
Becoming more prosperous in itself can be a good reason to review a will. Someone planning the distribution of his estate might realign his priorities if he realised his assets had grown in value from, for example, pounds 25,000 to pounds 250,000.
Lawyers also believe that even people without much property can benefit from making a will.
The Law Society says: 'You can still make a will if you have no property to give away - it can simply appoint your personal representatives and in the case of single parents your solicitor can explain about appointing a guardian for children under 18.'
For the poorest members of society Legal Aid can be made available to produce a will. For instance, people receiving income support, disability working allowance or family credit are likely to be eligible for Legal Aid unless their disposable capital exceeds pounds 1,000. But very few people in these circumstances take advantage of their entitlement.
Brian King of Chester-based Wayman Hales advises regularly on wills but has never drawn one up for a Legal Aid client.
'It's a bit like other benefits: the very people who are entitled to the benefit may not be exercising the privilege,' he says.
Hundreds of law firms are expected to be promoting their will- making services next week under the Law Society banner and its Batman-style cartoon character Will Power. Some firms will be offering their services at a discount as an extra inducement.
Details of free will check service from Alistair Keeble & Passmore on 0206-574076; the British Red Cross Guide to Wills and Legacies is available free from the Planned Giving Department, British Red Cross, 9 Grosvenor Crescent, London SW1X 7EJ; a free booklet, Sound Advice on Making Your Will, is available from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, 105 Gower Street, London WC1E 6AH; copies of Age Concern's Putting Your Affairs in Order are available free from the Wills and Legacies Unit, Age Concern England, Astral House, 1268 London Road, London SW16 4ER; the Homeowners Friendly Society's Writing a Will - The Facts is available free on freephone 0800 222221.Reuse content