Fewer than half of Britons have a current will

A survey of more than 2,000 Britons has revealed that 59 per cent of adults do not have a will. When asked why, more than one in five (23 per cent) said they did not "have very much to put into one", closely followed by the view that "everything will automatically go to a spouse".

Worryingly, 73 per cent of those co-habiting but unmarried do not have a will. This leaves their partners exposed as under current law, should a co-habiting partner die the other is not automatically entitled to any of the deceased's estate.

Young people aged between 18 and 24 were least likely to have a will ( just 2 per cent), followed by those aged 25-34 (10 per cent) and the 35-44 age group (25 per cent).

Of those who do have a will, 44 per cent have reviewed it in the past three years, so it is more likely to be up-to-date and relevant.

"It is concerning to see so many people do not see the benefits of having a will in place," said Matthew Gledhill, a director of insurer Beagle Street, which conducted the survey.

"At a very difficult time, it is enormously helpful to have some idea of the person's wishes regarding their estate. It can also avoid lengthy administrative processes with banks and other legal/financial institutions."

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