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:
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.
The more complicated your financial affairs the longer it will take to draw up the Will and the more it will cost.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.