News and industry insights

Estate Planning Survey Uncovers more Quirky Inheritances

By Estatesearch on June 28th, 2024

A treasure map, a vampire statue and toothbrushhave all been left in Wills according to a new research study of 2,000 Canadian residents conducted by independent market research firm Danebury Research on behalf of legal technology company, Estatesearch.  The survey, designed to find out more about estate planning, also found people in Canada had inherited various quirky items from a ceramic squirrel to a massage chair.  Other weird items included: gnomes, an empty packet of gum and a beer can.  One respondent claimed to have been left Paul Newman’s used toothbrush by a relative who was a hotel worker. 

Let’s turn the clocks back

Estatesearch conducted a similar survey of 2,000 UK residents in 2023 and found that people had inherited items including an axe, a stuffed snake, a tortoise, a horse, to a bed, to a Victorian trumpet, one sock and one shoe, my father’s spade and “my granny’s false teeth”!

Navigating Estate Planning Difficulties

Jonathan Upton, Director, Estatesearch confirmed: “The studies highlight some strange items left in Wills in both the UK and Canada, but on a more serious note they were designed to establish how easily people can locate assets like life insurance, workplace pensions, savings and investments.

“Last year we questioned 2,000 UK residents about their attitudes to estate planning and found that 30% of people can’t easily locate or don’t know the whereabouts of their personal pensions, the same applied to 32% when questioned about other policies such as life insurance. A further 38% of people had not, or were unsure, if they had informed their next of kin where to find information pertaining to a National Savings and Investments account.

“This year our Canadian study found that 29% of people can’t easily locate or don’t know the whereabouts of their Workplace Pension.  We also found that a further 26% of people had not, or were unsure, if they had informed their next of kin where to find information pertaining to life insurance. 

“It is a similar story when it comes to Wills.  In our UK Survey we found that half the respondents had a will (47%) and of these, less than a third said that it was up to date (28%).  In Canada, we also discovered only half the Canadian respondents have a Will (51%) and of these, 20% said that it needs updating.

These statistics show a trend shared across the two nations which is concerning as there could be assets which are not accounted for in the Will, something that could lead to unnecessary additional legal costs, tax recalculations or in the worst-case scenario, estate disputes and litigation.”

Further findings of the Canadian Survey included:

  • 21% of people can’t easily locate or do not know the whereabouts of Registered Savings and investment plans.
  • 38% can’t easily locate or do not know the whereabouts of shareholders certificates or bonds.
  • 25% can’t easily locate or do not know the whereabouts of life insurance policies.
  • Those residing in Quebec (55%) and British Columbia (54%) are most likely to have a Will, while those living in Alberta are least likely to have a will 44% (Ontario 48%).
  • As expected, younger people are less likely to have a will.  In the 18-24 year old age bracket 40% of respondents have a Will, compared with just over half (57%) of 55-64 year olds, and more than three quarters (76%) of those over the age of 65.
  • However, only 19% of the 18-24 year olds said their Will was up to date compared with 35% of 55-64 year olds and 53% of those over 65.
  • There is a clear gender disparity with well over half of male respondents confirming they have a Will (58%) compared with only 43% of women.
  • From those who used a lawyer to help write their will, 40% would expect them to be contacted periodically to ensure contact details are up to date.  59% would expect their lawyer to contact their Executor / Next of Kin in the event that they passed away.
  • 34% of respondents own digital assets including 17% with online gaming/gambling accounts and 16% cryptocurrency.  Yet, 51% had not considered or didn’t know if they had considered digital assets when it came to estate planning.

Jonathan Upton continues: “The survey highlights the real challenges which families and their executors face when it comes to identifying and locating the assets and Wills of the deceased.  Over time, it’s easy to lose track of workplace pensions or life insurance policies.”

Simplifying the process

Estatesearch has recently launched its award-winning asset and liability searches and Will Data Management services to Canadian legal firms.

Jonathan Upton continues: “Our asset and liability searches often identify unknown bank accounts containing thousands of dollars, and these searches help lawyers to obtain a fuller picture of the estate and rightfully distribute funds to the beneficiaries.  Away from our core services, Estatesearch is also committed to promoting awareness of the issues faced by lawyers to the wider financial industry, facilitating conversations between financial institutions and legal membership groups. As one of the founders of the Vulnerable Banking Group in the UK, we are developing technology to help firms comply with legal regulation and ultimately improve outcomes for vulnerable people at what can be a difficult time. The results of this research will now be used to educate and inform professionals in the estate industry about the challenges and solutions available to support their due diligence processes in identifying estate assets.”

Originally published in Today’s Will’s and Probate

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