Not all wills are created equal: just 39 percent of Brits plan to divide their assets equally

  • More than one in eight (13 per cent) beneficiaries have received inheritance from an estate which was not divided equally
  • 29 million Brits (56 per cent) have no will in place
  • Only 32 per cent have drafted a will with professional legal support

New research1 from Direct Line Life Insurance reveals that just 39 per cent of Brits who have drafted a will plan to divide their assets equally between beneficiaries, and more than one in ten (13 per cent) Brits have already received inheritance from an estate which was not divided equally among the beneficiaries. 

Despite almost half (49 per cent) of those aged over 55 planning to split their estate equally, the younger generations (18-34) are driving a change toward a more selective division of assets, with just a quarter (25 per cent) planning to give beneficiaries an equal share of their estate. 

When looking at the reasons for not dividing an estate equally, 14 per cent say some beneficiaries deserve more than others due to the way they behaved during the deceased’s lifetime. Other reasons include; some beneficiaries being wealthier than others (10 per cent), some beneficiaries being more liked than others (nine per cent) and the repayment of financial support that the beneficiary gave them during their lifetime (nine per cent).

Research amongst legal professionals2 reveals that clients drafting a will are advised to inform beneficiaries in advance if the main value of the estate is to be divided unequally. However, it appears people aren’t acting on this advice as just 37 per cent of those who have decided not to divide their assets equally tell their beneficiaries in advance. In some circumstances, this could lead to resentment between beneficiaries and increase the likelihood of legal challenges and disagreements over the estate. 

The research1 reveals more than 29 million Brits (56 per cent) haven’t written a will (formal or informal), leaving their estate subject to rules of intestacy3. While 71 per cent of those aged 18-34 do not have a will, alarmingly over a third of adults (34 per cent, or 6.8 million) over the age of 55 also do not have a will in place, meaning that if they pass away their estate will only be shared among their direct family and any wishes they have expressed verbally will not be taken into account. 

Less than a third (32 per cent) of people has written a will dividing up their assets using professional legal support.  A further seven per cent have used an online tool kit, which may not result in the will being legally binding if the benefactor hasn’t closely followed the rules such as having the document correctly witnessed.

The most likely people to benefit from a will are the deceased current spouse or partner (34 per cent), followed by first born children – sons (30 per cent) and daughters (29 per cent), ahead of younger children – sons (14 per cent) and daughters (12 per cent).

Jane Morgan, Business Manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, commented: “Death is never an easy topic to discuss, but should the worst happen it is a conversation you are likely to have wished you’d had. Leaving a valid will is crucial, as intestacy rules do not take into account the various family dynamics people face in the UK and can be made more complicated by multiple marriages, divorces, children and step-children.

“With the number of unmarried couples also on the rise, these modern family relationships are often at risk of being overlooked”

Morgan continues: “As well as leaving a valid will, life insurance is another way for families to help look after loved ones financially if they pass away, paying out a lump sum, to help deal with every day money concerns such as household bills and childcare costs.”

Regional findings

On a regional basis, the residents of Nottingham are least likely to have commenced estate planning, as 70 per cent haven’t written a formal or informal document on how they would like their assets divided. When it comes to a division of assets, residents of Belfast (55 per cent) say they have split their estate equally amongst beneficiaries compared to just 30 per cent of residents in Brighton and Edinburgh. 


Table two: Number of residents that plan not to divide their will equally amongst beneficiaries


Percentage of residents that have not written a will or informal document dividing their assets

Percentage of residents that have split their will equally


70 per cent

47 per cent


65 per cent

48 per cent


63 per cent

37 per cent


62 per cent

40 per cent


61 per cent

36 per cent


61 per cent

32 per cent


58 per cent

34 per cent


56 per cent

55 per cent


55 per cent

37 per cent


55 per cent

40 per cent


55 per cent

48 per cent


54 per cent

38 per cent


52 per cent

40 per cent


50 per cent

30 per cent


47 per cent

30 per cent


43 per cent

31 per cent


40 per cent

42 per cent

Source:  Direct Line Life Insurance

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Notes to Editors

For further information please contact:

Claire Jarrett

PR Manager

Direct Line Group

Tel: 01651 832 411

Email: [email protected]


Katie Ormrod

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

Tel: 0207 282 1023

Email: [email protected]

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel, pet and life insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line life insurance policies are underwritten by Legal & General, registered office: One Coleman Street, London EC2R 5AA. Legal & General Assurance Society Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under number 117659. You can check the FCA register at or call the FCA on 0800 111 6768. Legal & General will introduce customers who select the Funeral Benefit Option to Dignity Funeral Services, who are members of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0800 145 5522 or visiting