Those in the North West are least likely to have a will

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North West folk are least likely to have a will, new research has found, as experts urge residents to sign up and so avoid future problems for their families.

Meanwhile the same survey of 2,000 UK residents also found people had inherited various quirky items from an axe to a stuffed snake, a tortoise to a horse and from a bed to a Victorian trumpet.

However, the weirdest items included: one sock and one shoe, "my father’s spade” and “my granny’s false teeth”!

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The survey by Danebury Research for legal technology company, Estatesearch found that only 39 per cent of people in the North West have a will, compared with a 47 per cent national average and 58 per cent in London.

And well over half of respondents in the North as a whole didn’t know if their will had been registered with a will registry service compared to 53 per cent nationally.

Ben Furlong, customer services director at Estatesearch, said: “Much of our work is about supporting clients in identifying the full extent of a person's estate, in a bereavement or loss of mental capacity case.

"This was a serious study to ascertain how easily people can locate or already know the whereabouts of assets like life insurance, pensions, savings, premium bonds and share certificates.

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"It revealed that 30 per cent of people can’t easily locate or don’t know the whereabouts of their personal pensions for example. The same applied to 32 per cent when questioned about other policies such as life insurance.

"A further 38 per cent 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.

“We also discovered less than half the respondents have a will and of these, less than a third say that it is up to date (28 per cent).”

Further findings included:

• There is a clear gender disparity with well over half of male respondents confirming they have a will (54 per cent) compared with only 41 per cent of women.

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• Well over a third (38 per cent) of people have made, updated or considered making a will due to the Covid pandemic. In the 18 to 24-year-old age group this rose to more than half, compared with only 21 per cent of those over 55.• As expected, younger people are less likely to have a will. In the 18 to 24 bracket 38 per cent of respondents have a will compared with just over half of 55 to 64-year-olds and 70 per cent of over-65s.• If a spouse or significant other passed away, 35 per cent of respondents said they would not be able to locate all their assets.

Mr Furlong said: “Inspired by the Bond film Skyfall, where Judi Dench’s character M left James Bond a Bulldog figurine in her Will, we also decided to find out what interesting or unusual items people had inherited. Further answers included: a boat, a cutlery set, an egg timer, a penny, a torch, a handmade hairspray can cover and a gun!

“Although this question was designed to be lighthearted, our survey highlights the real challenges which families and their executors face when it comes to identifying and locating the assets of the deceased.

"Over time, it’s easy to lose track of pension pots, premium bonds or life insurance policies.

"It is estimated that there is over £200bn in unclaimed assets in the UK including £1.45bn in banks and building societies and £3.4bn dormant assets in National Savings and Investments. In 2016, there was £15bn in unclaimed pension funds, while there are a further £640m in dormant share registrations.

“On behalf of one solicitor, our asset and liability search recently identified an unknown bank account containing over £75k, and this meant those funds were able to rightfully distributed to the beneficiaries.

"Away from our core services, Estatesearch are also committed to promoting awareness of the issues faced by private client practitioners to the wider financial industry, facilitating conversations between financial institutions and legal membership groups.

"As one of the founders of the Vulnerable Banking Group, we are developing technology to help firms comply with Consumer Duty 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 private client solicitors about the challenges and solutions available to support their due diligence processes in identifying estate assets.”