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Retirees Expected to Bequeath Significant Part of Their Wealth

A newly published set of reports has highlighted the level of wealth held by older people in England and also found that much of it is likely to be bequeathed to later generations

How Wealth is Used in Retirement

According to the reports, which were funded by the IFS Retirement Savings Consortium and the Economic and Social Research Council, those aged 55-64 hold median housing wealth of £185,000 and median other wealth (excluding pensions) of around £33,000. Much of this wealth is not generally used to finance retirement and so most of it will be passed on to children and grandchildren.

The research looked at how this wealth is generally used by current retirees, and found that:

  • Primary housing is the largest component of (non-pension) wealth held. 80% of the over 50s are home owners.
  • Financial wealth is on average drawn down, but only slowly. Observed behaviour suggests that on average individuals will draw down just 31% of net financial wealth between ages 70 and 90.
  • Around one-in-six of those aged 55-64 own a second home.
  • Most people do not appear to experience large end-of-life expenses that would use up remaining wealth holdings.


The researchers therefore concluded that most wealth held by current retirees will be bequeathed on their death, rather than being spent during their retirement.

Patterns of Bequest Giving

The researchers also looked at patterns of bequest giving, and found that:

  • Married people nearly always bequeath only to their spouse. The surviving spouse most often bequeaths all of their assets to their children (in 60% of cases for those with financial assets) rather than sharing directly across multiple generations. For example, only 16% of those with financial assets and no surviving spouse directly left any assets to grandchildren (74% had grandchildren).
  • Together these findings imply that inheritances will typically only be received at relatively older ages. For example, someone currently aged 40 who was born to a 27 year old mother and an older father might, on average, expect to receive a bequest from their parents at age 63.
  • Bequests tend to be made to multiple individuals – for example to several children – and so inheritances received are generally considerably smaller than the size of individuals’ estates on death. Among those with financial assets who were not survived by a partner, 24% left their assets to two individuals, 16% to three, and 26% to four or more individuals.

Too Many Adults are Without A Will

There are concerns however about how effectively this wealth will be passed on. New research from Which? has found that as many as 61% of the adult population are currently without a will.

The main reasons given for not writing a will included:

  • Having nothing worth inheriting (38%)
  • It hadn’t occurred to them (20%), and
  • They had been too busy (16%)


Not having a will in place can have some potentially serious implications, including not being able to decide exactly who will inherit your assets and leaving your loved ones with the problem of sorting out your affairs at an already difficult time.

Contact Us

For expert legal advice on estate planning and writing a will then contact our specialist will writing lawyers today.

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