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Making a Will

A Will is about more than just money. Here's what you need to know for your own peace of mind.

Understandably, making a Will is something people are often reluctant to do. But, making a Will should be an absolute must for anyone planning to leave their worldly possessions to family or friends.

Making a Will

A Will is a legal document that outlines who is to inherit from you and can save all sorts of family disagreements when you die. It is especially important if you have children, property, savings or investments. If you want to make provision for your loved ones after you've gone, which having a Will can address this.

A Will is about more than just money:

  • You can name a trusted person to deal with your estate after you pass away. This person will have the authority to manage your assets, pay your outstanding debts and distribute your estate according to your wishes
  • A Will protects your interests, it helps your loved ones and it ensures everything is done as you’d wish
  • You can identify special possessions or family heirlooms that you would like to go to a specific person or people
  • You can express instructions for what you'd like to happen at your funeral
  • If you have children under 18, you can nominate a legal guardian to care for them
  • Wills can also be used for tax planning, to protect your assets for future generations and maximize what is passed on to your loved ones.

The price of Wills can vary dramatically but cost should not always be the deciding factor. The right Will should be tailored to your personal circumstances, assets and property.

Below we have provided useful information about the options available when writing a Will, things to think about when making a Will and some of the common reasons why people don't think they need a Will.

 

Writing a Will and the options available

There are three main options to choose from when writing your Will:

Getting a Will written for you by a solicitor or member of the Institute of Professional Will Writers is usually straightforward.

Solicitors do know their business, and they should write you a comprehensive Will that does exactly what you want it to. It’s the most expensive option but carries greater peace of mind, particularly if your financial affairs are complicated.

It's advisable to consider a solicitor if:

  • Your estate is likely to result in Inheritance Tax (currently it applies if your estate’s value is more than £325,000)
  • You have a complicated family situation, such as ex-partners or children you're no longer in touch with, and you want to be sure that your estate is distributed as you wish
  • You want to make special arrangements for someone, e.g. a disabled family member.
A single Will drawn up by a solicitor is likely to cost between £100 and £200 and a joint Will for couples between £150 and £300. Check whether your quote is inclusive of VAT.

The more complicated your financial affairs the longer it will take to draw up the Will and the more it will cost.
This is a cheaper option than a solicitor, and offers a fair amount of support and advice.

However, because Will writers aren’t regulated in the same way as solicitors, (where you have comeback if things go wrong), try and use a Will writer who’s a member of a professional organisation such as the Institute of Professional Will Writers. The cost starts at around £75. Extra services, like amending and storing your Will, are often quoted separately.
If you are confident about the legal details and have done your research, writing your own Will is another option open to you. But if you do choose to go down this path you must be absolutely sure every instruction in your Will is crystal clear and easy for your executor(s) to carry out. If not, the outcome can be costly to put right and in some cases may be irreversible.

The cost can be as little as £10 for a basic template and you can do it online. You'll need to get your Will formally witnessed and signed to make it legally valid. 

A Do It Yourself Will is only really a suitable option if your financial affairs are very simple – for example if you’re married or in a civil partnership and you have no children. Inheritance Tax can be complex, and things might change between writing your Will and when you die. 


Other things to think about when making a Will

Executors are the people you appoint to sort out your affairs when you die and make sure that your wishes are carried out. 

They could be friends or family members, a professional, solicitor or accountant or an organisation such as a bank. You need to have at least one executor, but most people tend to choose two, so that if one dies the survivor can take on the responsibility alone. You should always seek agreement before you name an executor in your Will. It's also important that they have sight of your Will beforehand so that they can fully understand your wishes.

A solicitor, accountant or bank will charge a fee for their services. Non-professional executors can’t charge a fee but can claim for expenses. Whilst this will save money, the advantage of professionals is that they are being professionally engaged to do the work.

Once you’ve made your Will and it's been formally witnessed and signed to make it legally valid, you'll need to decide where to store it for safekeeping. It’s essential to make sure that your executors know where it is and how to get it.

There’s more information about storing your will on HM Courts and Tribunal Service website.
It's important to remember that as far as the law goes, there is no such thing as a 'common law' wife or husband. If you live with a partner of the opposite or same sex outside of marriage or civil partnership, you have no rights under the intestacy rules even if you have children. 

However long you’ve been together, you and your partner are treated as if you are single (unless you're still married to someone else).

This is another good reason to make sure you write a Will in order to avoid your long-term partner losing everything, including the home you have shared. 
Millions of pounds goes to the government every year because people die without leaving a Will. Someone who dies without making a Will is called an 'intestate'. A lot of people wrongly believe that that without a Will, their possessions would automatically go to their family. But this isn't always the case. 

If you die without leaving a Will, your assets will be distributed under the intestacy rules. You can find out what the current rules are by going to the government's website here

Dying intestate not only means that your final wishes may not be followed, but that the financial and emotional mess is left for your loved ones to sort out after you've gone.

Any Will made before you got married or entered into a civil partnership is automatically made invalid by a new marriage or registered civil partnership. If you don’t make a new Will, the rules of intestacy will apply. If you marry or enter into a civil partnership for a second time, it is particularly important to make a Will to ensure that your wishes are reflected and the interests of your first family are protected. Otherwise, they could otherwise find themselves disinherited.
Many things can happen between writing your Will and the end of your life. So it's important to regularly review and update your Will to include any big life changes. 

These could include when a new baby is born, a family member dies, or if you get divorced or dissolve a civil partnership. You must remember to specifically name in full, any family members, friends or charities who you want to benefit after your death. 

You can of course change your Will at any time before your death. You need to make an official alteration (called a 'codicil') or make a new Will that will automatically replace any existing Wills.


Common reasons why people don't think they need a Will

There are many misconceptions about Wills and reasons why people don't yet have one.

While you may not have children, own a property or have significant savings and investments, you could have other belongings that can be passed on to friends and relatives through a Will. If you want to leave any specific item that you own to an individual, then you need a Will.
We understand life can get hectic sometimes. With so much to do, writing your Will may not be at the top of your priority list but it is a really important thing to do, especially if you have a young family to consider. It's easier than you think!
All too often people feel that writing their Will can wait until they're older. None of us know what might lie around the corner. If you die without a Will, the law will decide which members of your family inherit your possessions and your estate could be divided in a way you might not have chosen. As an adult, you're never too young to make a Will.
Dwelling on death isn't a pleasant experience. Yet, taking some time to think about what you'd like to happen to your estate when you pass away ensures your loved ones are provided for.

A clear, well-written Will is of great help to your loved ones. It'll help them understand your final wishes and enable them to work through your last wishes at a time of great emotional pain.
Many people think their assets automatically go to their partner if they die. This isn't always the case. The law states your partner will only inherit if you're married or in a civil partnership. No matter how long you've lived together, your partner won't receive any of the assets you own, unless your assets are held as joint tenants or you write a Will.

Even couples who are married or are civil partners won't necessarily inherit your whole estate. The rules of intestacy state that where children are involved, a proportion of the estate automatically goes to them. 
You may want to leave something behind to your nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters or cousins. If you don't specifically name these loved ones in your Will, they may not inherit anything from you.
It doesn't have to be, no. As highlighted above you can use a solicitor, a Will writing service or do it yourself.
Most of us are worth more than we think, especially if you have insurance policies which would pay out on your death. For example you may have 'death in service benefit' through your work.