A valid will is crucial for the security of loved ones. We’ll show you how to make a will, so that assets are correctly distributed in the event of a death
How to Make a Will the Simplest Way: A 9-Step Guide to Making a Will
A last will and testament is an important document that outlines who should benefit from your assets in the event of your death. When making a will, you should clearly set out the following:
- who shall be responsible for any children under 18
- who shall receive what portion of your assets
- who your executor should be (the person to carry out your final wishes)
- what happens to your estate if your beneficiaries die before you
Keep in mind that for wills to be considered legally valid, they need to be signed and witnessed by two witnesses. With this in mind, here are 9 clear points to consider, before you make a will.
Do you need a will?
It is important to think about what would happen to your assets, and to your children, or dependents, in the inevitable event of death. These decisions should be written down clearly in a will, to ensure your wishes can be legally carried out.
If there is no legally-binding will, your money, property and possessions will be divided up by the state. These assets will then be distributed according to the law, rather than your wishes. Without a will and a named executor, the settling of your estate also becomes a more difficult process for your loved ones. For these reasons, it advisable to make a will.
What is the regulation for those who create wills?
Anyone can make a will, provided they are over the age of 18 and are of sound mind. For the will to be legally valid, it must be:
- written down
- signed in the presence of two witnesses over the age of 18
- signed by the two witnesses, in your presence
- written and signed voluntarily with testamentary capacity
- any changes should be signed and witnessed following the same process.
It is possible to write a will on your own, but enlisting a solicitor when making a will may give you peace of mind.
Testamentary Capacity means you are able to understand:
- that you are writing or signing a will
- the outcome of the will
- an approximate value of your assets
- who your beneficiaries are
- how your assets should be divided between them
How much does it cost to make a will in the UK?
Will writing through a solicitor can cost several hundred pounds in the UK. If the estate is particularly complex or you have included any trusts in your will, the fee could be as high as £600.
If you and your spouse or partner request a will in the UK that is basically the same (a “mirror will”) you should get a reduced price for both. More cost effective options are available for simple wills. If you use a charity that offers a will writing service, or a bank, or use an online will, prices can be as low as £20.
Do you need to pay for legal advice?
You are not obliged to pay for legal advice. However, engaging a solicitor gives peace of mind that the will is robust and ensures your wishes are unambiguous. A solicitor can also help to reduce inheritance tax by putting certain assets into a trust.
It is useful to have legal assistance if:
- your family dynamics are complex
- you have had more than one marriage or partnership
- you have children from previous partnerships
- you have a loved-one with special needs and would like them taken care of
- you own complex assets (like overseas property or businesses)
- your permanent home is outside of the UK
Making a will through a solicitor also gives you an opportunity to securely store the will at their offices. Solicitors usually offer this option free of charge if you make a will through them.
Free or low cost wills and will kits?
If you feel confident that your assets can be easily divided between your beneficiaries, you might prefer to write your own will. Keep in mind these tips when considering how to create a will yourself, enlisting a will writing service, or paying for cheap wills:
Using a bank’s will writing service
Your bank will probably offer a will-writing service for under £100, or even for free. Take note, the bank may require you to accept them as the administrators of your estate. This will probably come with a fee (usually a percentage of the estate value).
Using a charity-based will-writing service
A charity-based will writing service can be helpful if you are conscious of budget, but still need help in making a will. Often these services are performed by a solicitor for free, with the hope you might leave a donation to the charity in your will. Voluntary donations are suggested at around £100 for a single, basic will and £180 for a pair of basic mirror wills.
You are not obliged to leave a donation, and you are also free to leave a much larger amount to the charity, if you so wish.
Using a will kit
A will template or kit can be bought from stationery shops, the post office or an online service. They usually cost between £10 and £30. These will kits are legal, if the correct protocol is followed.
Remember: the will must be signed with two adult witnesses present. You must be present when those witnesses sign the will.
How to write your own Will?
If you have a relatively simple will, you may chose to write it yourself. A will can be made on any sheet of paper and follow whichever format you wish.
However, the will is only valid if:
- it is signed by yourself, in the presence of two adult witnesses
- it is signed by those witnesses, in your presence
- these witnesses are not beneficiaries of the will
- it was written and signed while you were of sound mind
- any changes are properly recorded in a codicil
When making a will, keep in mind that any conflicting instructions or confusing wording may be challenged in a court of law. Depending on the outcome, your wishes may not be carried out in the way you had planned. This could put serious strain on your loved ones, as well as an unexpected financial burden during an already-difficult period.
If the will is found to be invalid, this will delay the settling of the estate. Your next of kin would then need to apply to the probate office for letters of administration. For these reasons, you should ensure the instructions in your will are clear to understand and easy to follow.
If you are unsure of how to make a will at home or if there is any complexity regarding your assets, consider consulting a solicitor for advice.
What details do I need before making a will?
Important things to consider when making a will include details about:
- the people
- the assets
- the liabilities
mentioned in your will. You also need to decide how you would like your estate to be divided. You can start by making a will checklist, to be sure you have the following:
- Your principal beneficiary or beneficiaries
- Your chosen executors or trustees
- The value of your assets and liabilities
- Any gifts to individuals or charities you’d like to bequeath in your will
- The guardians you would nominate for any children under 18
- Whether you should make provision for stepchildren
- Whether you would like to make provision for any family members from past relationships
- Who your two witnesses will be
Make certain that your two witnesses are over the age of 18, and are NOT beneficiaries of your will.
What does a will contain?
When making a will, you will need to include the following:
Details of people mentioned in the will
- beneficiaries (people you are leaving assets to in your will)
- executors (people responsible for administering your estate)
- trustees (people responsible for any trusts you might name in your will)
- guardians of any children under 18
The value of your estate should be included in your will
- the estimated value of all your assets : cash, investments, property, possessions
- the estimated value of all your liabilities : outstanding mortgages and other debts
- details about any jointly-owned assets
Details about any properties you own need to be specified in your will
- title number at land registry
- whether it is freehold or leasehold
Details of businesses, investments, shares, pensions, life policies or other assets
- relevant account numbers for bank accounts
- registration numbers for any cars owned
- registered address and company registration number for any companies owned
- pensions or life policies if they are paid out directly into your estate
- any personal possessions must be described in detail so they can be identified
Any final wishes you would like included in your will
- specific gifts you’d like to leave to people or charities
- specific instructions for your funeral
This can be included in a letter of wishes, separate to your last will and testament.
Once your will is complete, you and your two Witnesses must sign the will
Your will should be signed by you in the presence of your two witnesses. These witnesses will also need to sign the will.
Remember: if you leave anything to either of your two witnesses or their spouses in your will, the whole document could be invalid. In England and Wales, your witnesses must be over the age of 18. In Scotland, your witnesses need to be over the age of 16.
How do you keep a will safe?
You should keep your will in a safe place. You should tell your executor or a close family member where it is, so it can be accessed in the event of your death.
It can be stored:
- in your safe at home
- by your solicitor
- by a company that offers the storage of wills
- by your bank
Take care not to store your will in a safety deposit box, as this will not be accessible until probate has been granted. This means your chosen executor might not be appointed.
When making a will, how do you know if your will is valid?
To mitigate the chances of your will being contested, make sure:
- there are no changes, amendments, crossed out sections or missing pages
- the staples or bindings have not been removed
- your instructions are easy to understand and your wishes are clearly stated
- all pages are numbered
- there are no large blank spaces that could be used to add something to the will
Making changes to a will
You cannot change your will after you and your witnesses have signed it. If any changes need to be made, you will need to create a codicil outlining these amendments. This codicil will need to be signed by you and two witnesses, in the same manner as the will.
The two witnesses do not need to be the same two people who witnessed the original signing.
Replacing a Will
If you have major changes to make to your will, consider making a new will. This new will will explain that you are revoking all previous wills and codicils. Your old will should be destroyed: torn, shredded or burned.
What happens if I do not have a will?
Dying without a will in place means the probate office will need to issue letters of administration before probate can be granted. This will delay the settling of your estate.
If you do not manage to make a will before your death, your assets (all money, possessions, property) will be divided up according to intestacy law. This may mean that your intended beneficiaries do not inherit the share you had intended for them. They may inherit nothing at all.
Feel free to chat to us at Fenix Funeral Services to find a solution for your estate. We are here to prioritize your loved ones’ future and we can offer every manner of service you need, so that everything is secure and as you want it.
What is Intestacy law?
If you die without a last will and testament in place, this called ‘intestacy’. Dying intestate may leave your loved ones in a difficult position. Rules will vary across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but some common examples are:
- unmarried partners cannot legally inherit without a will
- a spouse may inherit all or most of the estate, leaving your children with little or no inheritance
- inheritance tax may be higher without a will in place
- if you have no living relatives, you entire estate will belong to the Crown or the government
When making a will, who can I name as an executor of my will?
You can name a trusted friend or family member as the executor of your will. This is usually a cheaper option than naming a solicitor, who may charge hundreds if not thousands of pounds. Your executor can be a beneficiary and inherit from your will, but not if they are also one of your witnesses.
When making a will, who can I name as my witnesses?
Your two witnesses can be any two adults who are not beneficiaries of your will. Their spouses are also not allowed to be beneficiaries of your will.
To avoid any mistakes or mix-ups when creating your will, chat to us at Fenix Funeral Services. We will gladly offer our dedicated will writing service, and can make the helpful recommendations for your exact situation at no additional cost to you.