Making a Will
Making a Will is simple and straightforward. This guide explains how to get started, who can help and why it’s a good idea to make a Will.
On this page:
Decide who you’d like your executors to be. Your executors will be the people responsible for ensuring your wishes are fulfilled. You should normally appoint at least two executors in your Will, in case one is unwilling or unable to act for you when the time comes. Check that the people you want to name as executors are happy to take on the job.
You can choose to appoint a solicitor or bank as your executor, but be aware that they’ll charge a fee for this. If you appoint family or friends as your executors, they can hire a solicitor if they need help. If they’re not happy with the solicitor(s) they hire, they can switch to another.
Calculate the value of your assets, including property, investments and any debts. Our simple form can help you think of the various assets you may have.
Choose the family members, friends or charities that you’d like to remember, and what type of gift you’d like to leave. Many people choose a percentage of their estate, but your solicitor can talk you through your options.
Visit a solicitor to have your Will drawn up. Your solicitor will keep a copy of your Will, but you might like a copy of your own. Keep it somewhere safe.
Give your executors a copy of your Will and a list of your property and possessions, or let them know where to find this information.
Make sure you review and update your Will whenever your circumstances change.
It’s a good idea to ask a legal professional to draw up your Will so they can ensure that the document has the right information in it. This also helps avoid problems, such as someone not getting a gift that you want them to receive because they have acted as a witness to the Will.
Will writing charges vary and you’ll need to approach legal firms to get a quotation. You can find a solicitor in your area by contacting the relevant law society listed at the end of this page .
Many charities offer free Will-writing services, including Marie Curie . You should not be under any pressure to leave anything to the charity, but you might want to. Marie Curie also has local legacy advisors who can help you if you are thinking about leaving a gift to the charity in your Will.
If you do use a Will-writing service, make sure it’s regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority or belongs to the Institute of Professional Willwriters or The Society of Willwriters. These organisations operate a code of practice and require their members to have professional insurance.
You can also write your own Will, but the wording must be clear. The Will must be properly signed and witnessed. However, it’s usually best to get this done professionally.
If you haven’t made a Will, the law decides who will inherit your assets and possessions when you die. This could mean that your possessions don’t go to the people you want them to.
The rules vary across the UK, but in all four nations, the law aims to protect your husband, wife or civil partner and any children, including any adopted children. The law doesn’t protect unmarried partners or step-children.
If you die without a Will:
- Assets you expected to pass entirely to your spouse or civil partner may have to be shared with children.
- An unmarried partner doesn’t automatically inherit anything and may need to go to court to claim for a share of your assets.
- A husband, wife or civil partner from whom you are separated, but not divorced, still has rights to inherit from you.
- Friends, charities and other organisations you may have wanted to support will not get anything.
- If you have no close family, more distant relatives may inherit.
- If you have no surviving relatives at all, your property and possessions may go to the Crown.
Without a Will, relatives who inherit under the law will usually be expected to be the executors of your estate. They might not be the best people for the job. A Will lets you decide the people who should take on this task.
Leaving clear instructions in your Will may speed things up and avoid confusion. You’ll also help your executors if you leave a list of what you own, any debts you owe (see Step two) and tell them where to find important documents.
Without a Will, there could be more inheritance tax on what you leave than there needs to be. Making a Will gives you a chance to think about ways to reduce the tax, if you want to.
In general, making a Will ensures that your property and possessions go to the people and organisations that you want. For example, you can use your Will to:
- leave particular possessions to people
- leave exact sums (‘£500 to each of my brothers’)
- make gifts to charity
- say who should receive whatever remains
However, if you deliberately exclude people who are financially dependent on you, they may be able to apply to court for a share of what you leave. In Scotland, a husband, wife or civil partner and children always have some rights to what you leave, regardless of what your Will says.
Arranging to own property and other things jointly can be a way of protecting your spouse or civil partner. For example, if you have a joint bank account, your partner will continue to have access to the money they need for day-to-day living without having to wait for your affairs to be sorted out.
There are two ways that you can own something jointly with someone else:
- As tenants in common (called common owners in Scotland). You each have your own distinct shares of the asset, which do not have to be equal. You can say in your Will who will inherit your share.
- As joint tenants (called joint owners in Scotland). You jointly own the asset so, if you die, the remaining owner(s) automatically inherits your share. You cannot use your Will to leave your share to someone else.
This page is for general information only. It's not intended to replace any advice from health or social care professionals. We suggest that you consult with a qualified professional about your individual circumstances. Read more about how our information is created and how it's used.
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