Will-ful ignorance: Macmillan reveals the shocking state of UK wills


Originally published: 9 January 2018

  • 2 in 3 UK residents don’t have a will — including 42% of over 55s[i]
  • 1.5 million people haven’t updated their will since getting married — making it void,[ii]
  • 1 in 5 (20%) admit to ‘will blunders’ — such as still including an ex-partner[iii]
  • Almost 1 in 10 wills have not been updated with children or grandchildren[iv]

New research from Macmillan Cancer Support today reveals that nearly 2 in 3 UK residents (63%) are leaving their final wishes to chance by failing to prepare a willᶦ. Worryingly, this includes 42% of people over the age of 55ᶦ.

The charity, which is offering a free will-writing service this month, also discovered that 1.5 million peopleᶦᶦ,ᶦᶦᶦ (8% of those with willsᶦᶦ) have unknowingly made their will void by getting married. Marriage automatically revokes a will made previously, leaving it invalid.

Without an up-to-date will, the law could supersede a person’s final wishes and leave treasured possessions, money, property, and even dependent children, with someone they may not have chosen.

The survey of over 2,000 adults unveiled a range of other ‘will blunders’, with 1 in 5 wills still including an ex-partner, not yet including children or grandchildren, not including a new relationship or including someone that they plan to removeᶦᵛ. As many as 1 in 10 people with wills (10%) admitted they were planning to update them to include children and grandchildren, but had not yet got around to itᶦᶦ.

This news comes despite official guidance recommending that people review their will every five years and after any major life changes[v], yet a quarter of wills have not been updated for at least five yearsᶦᶦ.

Craig Fordham, Director of Legacies at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “This January, Macmillan wants to help people take charge of their will and think about the type of legacy they want to leave behind. The start of the year is the perfect time to get your affairs in order and make arrangements for your loved ones and the causes closest to you.

“It’s a sad reality to face, but one in two of us will now face a cancer diagnosis at some point in our lifetime. While it’s not essential, we hope you might consider leaving a gift to Macmillan as well as your loved ones. Every penny can make a difference and your generosity will help us continue to support the growing number of people living with cancer for years to come.”

Previous research from Macmillan found that people’s top reasons for not having a will included them having ‘just never got round to it’ (41%), as well as the belief that they don’t have anything valuable to leave (26%) and that they don’t need to write one until they’re older (21%)[vi].

Macmillan Cancer Support receives no government funding and relies entirely on the generosity of the public. In 2016, a total of £76.8 million was left to Macmillan in people’s wills — making up almost a third of the charity’s income. Every penny helps Macmillan continue to provide emotional, financial, medical and practical support to the growing number of people living with cancer across the UK.

For further information on leaving a gift in your will to Macmillan, or on the free will-writing service in January, please visit: www.macmillan.org.uk/legacies.

- Ends-

Notes to editors

For further information and interviews, contact:

Emma Macdonald, Media & PR Officer (Fundraising)

Email: emacdonald@macmillan.org.uk / Tel: 020 7840 4903

About Macmillan Cancer Support

There are 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK. One in two people are likely to get cancer in their lifetimes. Cancer can affect everything, including a person’s body, relationships and finances. Macmillan Cancer Support provides practical, emotional and personal support to people affected by cancer every year. The charity is there to support people during treatment, help with work and money worries, and listen when people need to talk about their feelings. Macmillan receives no government funding and relies on generous donations from the public.


[i] Macmillan/Opinion Matters online survey of 2,000 UK adults. Fieldwork conducted 1–4 December 2017. Figures based on total population.

[ii] Office for National Statistics. UK population mid-year estimate for adults aged 18 or over. Available from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/datasets/populationestimatesforukenglandandwalesscotlandandnorthernireland [Accessed 12 December 2017]

[iii] Macmillan/Opinion Matters online survey of 2,008 UK adults. Fieldwork conducted 1–4 December 2017. Of those respondents who stated they had a will in place (741) in response to the question: “Thinking about your will, which of the following statements do you agree with” 147 of 741 respondents answered yes to at least one of the following ‘will blunders’: my will includes someone I am planning to remove, my will doesn’t include my children yet but I am planning on adding them, I am planning to add my grandchildren to my will but haven’t got round to it yet, my will still includes an ex-partner, my will doesn’t reflect my new relationship.

[iv] Macmillan/Opinion Matters online survey of 2,000 UK adults. Fieldwork conducted 1–4 December 2017. Figures based respondents who stated that they had a will in place, which was 741 of 2000 respondents or 36.9%

[v] https://www.gov.uk/make-will/updating-your-will (accessed December 2017)

[vi] Onepoll survey of 2,000 UK adults conducted between 26th May — 31st May 2016 and commissioned by Macmillan Cancer Support