Without a will, the law will dictate how your assets are divided and distributed. So, if you want to decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death, it’s important to have a formally witnessed and legally valid will in place. Here’s what you need to know about writing your will.
Why do I need a will?
Having a formally witnessed and legally valid will in place fulfils several functions:
- represents an opportunity to name your executors, who’ll look after the financial process when you die
- enables you to leave instructions for how you would like to divide and distribute your estate, and who you would like your estate to go to
- details provisions for any surviving children who are under 18
- reduces inheritance tax by ensuring you don’t pay more than you need to
How do I write a will?
When it comes to writing your will, there are three main options to choose from. You can use a solicitor, opt for a will-writing service, or do it yourself.
If your will is not very straightforward – for example it involves numerous stakeholders and assets – it’s worth seeking professional advice. Whatever route you take, you need to get your will formally witnessed and signed to make it legally valid.
Use a solicitor
Solicitors are experts when it comes to creating a watertight will – they know exactly what elements to include and the vital questions you need to consider to ensure there are no grey areas. It’s the most expensive option, but it will give you peace of mind.
For example, if you have former partners or estranged children, or you want to protect someone’s interests after you are gone, a solicitor will ensure that your estate can be divided as you wish.
In addition, a solicitor will also be aware of the latest legislation surrounding what happens to your assets after you die. For example, if your estate’s value is more than £325,000, you might have to pay Inheritance Tax. Also, trusts or overseas properties require the extra attention to detail that a solicitor can provide.
Use a will-writing service
A cheaper option than using a solicitor, but still offering some support and advice, it’s important to remember that someone offering to write your will won’t necessarily be legally qualified, and isn’t regulated in the same way a solicitor is. Look for a will writer who’s a member of a professional organisation or consider using a charity that offers a free will-writing service in return for a donation.
Write your own will
If your affairs are straightforward – for example, you are married or in a civil partnership with children and want to leave everything to your partner (if you die first) or child (if you die second) – then you might consider writing your own will. If you decide to go down this route, look for an online or hard copy template to guide you through the process.
If you want to update your will, you need to make an official alteration – this is referred to as a ‘codicil’ – or start from scratch and write a new will.
What do I need to consider?
Select your beneficiaries
Who will receive your assets after you die?
Choose an executor
Who will be tasked with making sure the wishes you have outlined in your will are carried out? You might choose a family member, a trusted friend or a third-party with no vested interests, such as a bank or building society.
Select a guardian for your children
Who will raise any children under the age of 18 in the event of your death?
Any other business
Do you want to add a letter to explain or expand on the decisions made in your will? A legal document can feel impersonal, so adding an extra note can be a comfort to those left behind.
Find somewhere to keep your will
Tell someone you trust where to find your will, as well as any other important documents (such as those outlining your digital legacy) in the event of your death.