Having a legally valid will is important. A legal will determines what happens to your estate after you die; this includes your money, property, and possessions.
Without a legal will, the law determines what happens to your things and your beneficiaries might have to pay more Inheritance Tax than they need to. Ready to get started? Here’s what you need to write a will.
Do I DIY?
You can use a service to write a will, or you can write your own will. Will-writing services can be provided by independent will writers, solicitors, and some banks. Solicitors are better regulated than independent will writers, but tend to be pricier, so it’s worth spending some time checking out your options.
Alternatively, you can write your own will. Whether you DIY your will or not, it’s important to get legal advice if your will isn’t straightforward, like if you’re not married but share property with your partner, or if you’re a business owner.
What’s in a will?
Your will is all about who takes care of your estate and family after you die. When you write a will, you should include who gets what, and who will take care of any dependants under 18.
Your will should include who gets what
You should also include who the executor of your will is - this person basically reads out the will and makes sure your instructions are followed.
You should also include instructions for what happens if one or more of your beneficiaries dies before you.
If you’re interested in leaving your estate to a charity, there are lots of helpful resources online to help you include this in your will.
Is it legal?
Your will must meet specific criteria in order to be legal. Firstly, a will can only be legal if you are over 18 years old.
In addition, you must write your will voluntarily and in sound mind. A will must be in writing; this means that, while digital wills do exist, video or audio wills are unlikely to remain valid after you die.
Finally, you must sign your will in the presence of two witnesses, both of whom must be over 18. In turn, these two witnesses should sign your will in your presence. Your witnesses cannot also be beneficiaries, or the married partners of your beneficiaries.
Usually, witnesses are people who are not family or friends, since witnesses can’t receive anything in your will. Suitable witnesses include your GP or an employer.
Keep it safe
There are lots of places you can keep your will, but the most important thing is to make sure it’s safe. You can store your will at home but if you don’t feel like this is secure enough, you can instead leave your will with your solicitor or bank.
Once you’ve decided on a safe place to keep your will, make sure you let people know where it is! You should tell your executor where your will is, as well as close family members or friends.
You should regularly check your will to see if you need to make any updates or changes. It’s a good idea to make any updates every five years, or after a big life change, like a divorce or having a child.
If you make any changes to your will, they must be witnessed, just like when you initially wrote your will. You can make as many changes as you like.
However, if you’re making a major change or overhaul to your will, it’s recommended that you write a new will instead. In your new will, you should state that the old one has been revoked, as this makes it legally invalid.
Regularly check your will every five years
You should also securely destroy the old will and let your executor know about the new will.
Having a will is really helpful to ensure that your beneficiaries receive what you want them to. Wills also help your beneficiaries to pay accurate Inheritance Tax, which can really take a load off their minds.
Have you written your will yet? Share your tips and advice in the comments box below.