The British taboo of inheritance

Article date: 24 August 2011

  • Two-thirds of Britons would not talk openly about inheritance, yet 40% of Britons expect an inheritance

Britons are still reluctant to talk openly with their parents about any expected inheritance, according to new figures released today by Aviva. Almost two-thirds (63%) have not, or would not talk about the subject openly with their parents, despite the fact that 40% of people still expect an inheritance and may even build it into their retirement planning. 

Despite this expectation, encouragingly more than three-quarters (76%) of those asked would still be happy for their parents or grandparents to take money from their property, often seen as the "holy-grail" of inheritance, so that they may enjoy their retirement.

As highlighted in Aviva’s recent Real Retirement Report, the rising cost of living has meant that the average unsecured debt of over-55s is £17,112, including debt on credit cards (30%), personal loans (14%), overdrafts (10%) and store cards (7%).

For many over-55s, the home is their most valuable asset. While property values are no longer racing ahead as they once did, house prices have more than doubled over the last 20 years, and the average house price for over-55s is £231,306 (May 2011*). This is much higher than the national average of £160,519 (May 2011*).

As house prices have risen, equity release has become increasingly popular, as more cash-strapped retirees consider how to fund the lifestyle they want. Turning to their home in order to fund their later years has been a solution for many, with the over-55 population holding an estimated £1.9 trillion* in equity in the UK.

Clive Bolton, ‘at retirement’ director at Aviva, said: “Despite the British taboo of discussing inheritance, it seems that three-quarters of Britons are happy for their parents to use the cash in their property to enjoy a better lifestyle in retirement. Retirees should be encouraged to talk openly with their families about their plans and dreams for the future. 

“Not everyone has the funds in place to support the retirement they once thought possible and we encourage those approaching retirement to look at their full range of assets, including pensions, investments and property. Equity release could be a solution for some, as it allows people to turn the potentially dormant capital in their homes into cash without having to move, thereby helping them make the most of their retirement years.”


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

Jess Geoghegan / 01904 684128 / 
Tom Wilson / 01904 684283 /

Equity release survey conducted in July 2011 with 2000 UK consumers.

*Calculations taken from the June 2011 Real Retirement Report by Aviva. 

Notes to editors:

Aviva is the world’s sixth largest* insurance group. We provide more than 53 million customers with insurance, savings and investment products with total worldwide sales in 2010 of £47.1 billion**.

We are the UK’s largest insurer with 19 million customers and one in three households has a relationship with us. Our combination of life, health and general insurance is unique in its scale and breadth in the UK market. Customers can choose to buy our products through intermediaries, our corporate partners or from Aviva direct and we have become the partner of choice for many of the UK’s biggest organisations. 

We are ranked as one of the UK’s top 10 most valuable brands and Aviva plc are in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In 2010 we invested £4.3m into our communities in the UK, which included 1,500 Aviva volunteers giving 24,000 hours for good causes. In addition, our employees gave £600,000 through fundraising and donating. Read our corporate responsibility report at

Aviva is working in partnership with Railway Children through the Aviva Street to School programme to get children living or working on UK streets back into everyday life. Find out more at

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*based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2010.
**at 31 December 2010.

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