Inheritance and the Family: Attitudes to Will-Making and Intestacy
National Centre for Social Research Working Paper
138 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2010 Last revised: 7 Nov 2010
Date Written: August 16, 2010
This report provides robust data on attitudes in England and Wales to will-making and what the law should be when people die without making a will (intestacy). Evidence from the study is being used by the Law Commission to review how inheritance law should be shaped for a society in which divorce, remarriage and cohabitation have become common features of family life. This was a mixed method study. The quantitative element comprised a module of questions run on two consecutive waves of the NatCen Omnibus Survey in 2009, the second wave being used to boost the number of respondents in certain key groups of interest. The qualitative study involved 30 depth interviews with people who had taken part in the survey, purposively sampled in order to explore a range of views and attitudes in more detail. The study found that around one-third of respondents had made a will and there was strong support for the principle of freedom of testation. The range of beneficiairies mentioned in the will or considered as eligible to inherit on intestacy, was narrow, largely confined to spouses or partners and children or, in their absence, parents and siblings. More remote kin, and friends, carers and charities were much less commonly mentioned. Respondents were supportive of including cohabitants in the intestacy rules, though evidence of their 'commitment' to the deceased was important, to be shown either by having a child together or by the duration of their relationship. They were also keen to ensure that children of former relationships are not excluded from provision because of the deceased's marriage to a second spouse.
Keywords: Inheritance, Intestacy, Will-Making, Families
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