Brits say 'no thanks' to a £2.15 trillion inheritance

Article date: 3 December 2009

As two thirds (66%) of the UK’s over 55s – or 10.9 million people – look to leave their relatives more than £2.15 trillion* in their wills, Aviva – the UK’s largest insurer –reveals that only 41% of "children" actually expect an inheritance.

People in the South East (80%) are the most likely to inherit while those in Northern Ireland (50%) are least likely to inherit.

Table One: Value of Inheritances over 55s intend to leave their families



Percentage of people aged over 55 due to leave an inheritance


£78 billion


North West

£199 billion


North East

£68 billion



£188 billion


West Midlands

£180 billion


East Midlands

£124 billion


South East

£462 billion


South West

£164 billion


Northern Ireland

£46 billion



£98 billion


East of England

£161 billion



£386 billion


Different generations; different ideas:
There is a significant difference between how inheritance is viewed by the different generations. Parents are keen to help their families (58%) and nearly half (46%) want to pass on one of their biggest assets by bequeathing their home. However, many of their children (39%) would prefer that they use the cash to improve their lives rather than scrimp and save to provide an inheritance (35%).

Most people believe that they will receive family heirlooms and items of sentimental value (79%) in their parents’ wills over more monetarily "valuable" items, although  many people still believe they might receive the family home (54%), jewellery (39%) and cash (39%).

However, those wanting to leave an inheritance are twice as likely to do so to help their children financially, rather than for sentimental reasons.

Retirement reality:
Of those over 55s who will not be leaving an inheritance to their families, the main reason is due to insufficient money (57%) rather than wanting to enjoy their hard earned savings while they can (10%). This problem worsens as people get older and face the growing cost of retirement – 9% more people aged 66 – 75 cite insufficient money as a reason not to leave an inheritance (67% of 66 - 75 vs 58% of 56 -65s).

Brian Bussell - director of pensions - UK Life, Aviva comments: “At Aviva we want to help people have the best possible retirement, by encouraging them to save and to make the most of their assets in their later years. These findings are interesting because they show how many families share this view. While it appears that the UK’s over 55s are looking to leave their families £2.15 trillion worth of assets, the resounding response from their families is that they should enjoy their hard earned savings while they can.

“We understand that everyone has their own views on what makes a happy retirement but based on this research we would urge the UK’s older generation to heed the call from their families and make the most of their retirement. Whether this means unlocking the money tied up in their homes through equity release or securing an income for life from a good value annuity, there are many ways that the older generation can make the most of their assets. 

“However, should they be in the enviable position that even after providing for their retirement needs they have sufficient assets to leave an inheritance, we suggest that they seek inheritance tax planning to make sure they can pass on the maximum amount to their families.”

Regional View:
Families in the South East (£0.46 trillion) stand to inherit most from their relatives followed by those in London (£0.39 trillion) and the North West (£0.20 trillion).  However, those in the North East (£0.07 trillion) and Yorkshire (£0.10 trillion) will receive the lowest value inheritances.

The over 55s in the South East (80%) and Scotland (77%) are most willing to leave their families an inheritance while those in Yorkshire (54%) and Northern Ireland (50%) are more likely to use their assets to fund their retirement.

People in the South East (47%) and the East of England (38%) were most likely to want their parents to make their lives easier using their assets rather than scrimping and savings.  Indeed, even those children who expect they will receive an inheritance do not necessarily do so due to greed but rather because it is tradition (43%), their parents have told them they will receive one (33%) or they would like family heirlooms (17%).   


For further information:

Press office contacts
Sarah Poulter         
Telephone: 01904 452828                
E-mail: 07800 69156

The Wriglesworth Consultancy
Lee Blackwell/Karen Butcher       
Telephone: 020 7427 1400 

Notes to editors: 


  • Consumer research carried out through online poll of 1,337 members of the UK population aged between 18 and 80 undertaken in October 2009.
  • Amount of inheritance per over 55 determined using consumer research (detailed above) referenced with Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures on number and distribution of over 55 population.
  • Average over £200,000 assets determined using seasonally adjusted data from the Alliance & Leicester Debt Index.
  • Within this release 1 trillion is defined as 1,000,000,000,000. 

About Aviva
Aviva, the international savings, investments and insurance group, is the world’s fifth largest insurance group, serving 50 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. 

In the UK, Aviva is a leading provider of life, pensions, investment, general insurance and health products to more than 20 million customers. Aviva also provides roadside assistance through RAC. Products are distributed through a number of channels including IFAs, brokers, corporate partners and direct to customers via the internet.

Aviva's UK Insurance business has a market share of around 15%, making it the largest general insurer in the UK. The business is focused on insurance for individuals and small businesses.

Aviva's life and pensions business in the UK has a total market share of 12% and a top three position in its key markets of savings, protection, and annuities.

Aviva’s news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at

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