Making a will and planning what to leave

Money Advice Service

When making your will, think about how much you have to leave and who gets what. This guide will help you work out the basics, so you can get started with writing your will.

Making your will – step by step

Before you can write a will you need to decide who gets what.

You should set down the basics of your plan for your money and possessions – your estate – early on, before you visit a solicitor or discuss your will with your family.

Don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds – just follow this step-by-step process.

1. Make a list of who you want to benefit from your estate

It’ll probably take you just a few minutes to tick off this step – you can even do it right now.

You might include:

  • friends
  • charities
  • your partner or spouse
  • children and other family members

These people (or charities) are called your beneficiaries.

2. Write down your assets and roughly what they’re worth

Start with assets that are easiest to value:

  • savings
  • valuable objects, like jewellery or heirlooms

Then move on to the things that change in value. These will be harder to estimate exactly.

They include:

  • your pension
  • your business, if you own or part-own one
  • stock market investments – shares, bonds & funds
  • property – your house, plus any investment properties, land, or even a parking space that you own. Remember to factor in the value of any debts secured against your property.

Lastly, think about any sentimental items that you want particular people to have.

Whether you can include your pension will depend on the rules of your pension itself and you’ll need to check.

If you can include your pension, estimating its value might take some thought.

The value will depend on your scheme and when you die. Your first stop should be to read the death benefits advice from the Pensions Advisory Service.

3. Think about how you want to split your money and property when making your will

There are broadly five types of legacy you can leave.

  • I leave £2,000 to my son” – this is called a ‘pecuniary bequest’. It means you leave a fixed sum of money.
  • I leave my jewellery to my daughter” – this is called a ‘specific bequest’. It means you leave a specific item which you own. The way to identify it will be to see what meets that description at the date of death. If there is no jewellery at that time, then the gift will fail.
  • I leave half my estate to my brother” – this is a ‘residuary bequest’. It means you leave a percentage of whatever your estate is worth after any debts, costs, liabilities, legacies and tax have been paid.
  • I leave my share of my house to my wife if she survives me, but if she does not survive me then it will pass to my daughter” – this is a ‘reversionary bequest’ for your daughter. You can specify what happens if the person you leave it to dies.
  • I leave my share of my house to my wife for the rest of her life, and then it will pass to my daughter” – this creates a ‘trust’ over your share of the house. A trust allows you to say who you would like to benefit from your property immediately after your death (e.g. your wife), and then who you would like to benefit from your property (e.g. your daughter) once the first person you have chosen to benefit immediately after your death has died. This type of gift can easily go wrong, so you will need to get legal advice if you want to include a ‘trust’ in your will.

If your affairs are comparatively simple (for example, you want to leave everything to your husband), it’s likely you’ll just use simple residuary bequests.

If things are more complicated, you’ll probably use a combination. For example:

Mike is married with one son. His wife has a son too, from a previous marriage. He leaves:

  • his share of his home to his wife for the rest of her life
  • £1,000 to each of his grandchildren
  • his watch to his wife’s son
  • anything else in his estate to a charity

June is divorced with three children and four grandchildren. Her son has mental health problems. She leaves:

  • £500 to each grandchild
  • half the remaining estate in a trust for her son for the rest of his life, to be split between her daughters on his death, and
  • a quarter of the estate each to her daughters, but if any daughter dies before her, that daughter’s children will receive the dead daughter’s quarter share of the estate between them

4. Check if you’ll have to pay Inheritance Tax

There is normally no tax to be paid if:

  • The value of your estate is below the £325,000, threshold or
  • You leave everything above the threshold to your spouse or civil partner, or
  • You leave everything above the threshold to an exempt beneficiary such as a charity

The allowance can be transferred to a spouse or civil partner if it isn’t used up on the first death.

There is also an additional threshold for your home.

Find out more about who has to pay in A guide to Inheritance Tax

If you think you might be liable to pay inheritance tax read Top 5 ways to cut your Inheritance Tax

The rules aren’t straightforward. So, you’ll probably want to get professional advice to help with this.

5. Think about protecting your beneficiaries

Sometimes you might want to set some safeguards on your bequest – for example, if you’re leaving something to a child or someone with disabilities or mental health issues.

Many people handle these issues by setting up trusts: this means that what you leave can be managed by people you trust to act in the best interests of your beneficiary.

Either for good or until a time when they can look after themselves.

Read our guide on Using a trust to cut your Inheritance Tax

What to do once you’ve made your will

Once you’ve worked through the steps you’ll have a reasonably clear idea about what you want to leave in your will and to whom.

You might want to Talk to your family about your choices.

Your next step is to Get your will drawn up.

If your estate is quite simple (eg you’re simply leaving everything to your partner), you can probably do it yourself.

The more complex (and larger) your financial affairs, the more sensible it is to take advice from a solicitor.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

Some important information about Rest Less Money

We want you to understand the positives, but also the limitations of using our site. We operate in a journalistic manner and therefore all information, guidance or suggestions provided are intended to be general in nature, and you should not rely on any of the information on the site in connection with the making of any financial decision.

When we set out to build Rest Less Money, we wanted to be a trusted place where you could find helpful information about financial matters affecting the over 50s. As a free to use resource, we try hard to provide the best information we can, but we cannot guarantee that we won’t occasionally make mistakes. So please note that you use the information on our site at your own risk, and we can’t accept liability if things go wrong.

Key things to remember when using Rest Less Money:

We do not offer financial advice – As a journalistic site, it’s important to know that we do not provide financial advice. You should always do your own research before choosing any financial product so that you can be certain it is right for you and your specific circumstances. If you are in any doubt, please seek professional financial advice from a regulated financial advisor.

No Liability – please note that you use the information on Rest Less Money at your own risk and we can’t accept liability for how you choose to use the information given on our site. We will often provide links to content or products and services available on other third-party websites. These are provided purely for your convenience and we cannot be held responsible for any content, or any of the products and services offered on any website that we link to.

 

Accuracy of Information – We try to make sure that all the information provided on Rest Less Money is correct at the time of publishing as we want it to be the most helpful resource possible. Sadly, we are not perfect however, and so we can make no guarantees as to the completeness, accuracy, adequacy or suitability of the information available on the site.
Whilst we work hard to try and provide accurate information, deals and prices can change, so whilst they may be correct at the time of writing, providers may subsequently decide to alter them later – so always double check first.

A final note on the Rest Less Community Forums – always remember that anyone can post their opinion on the Rest Less Community Forums, so it can be very different from our own opinion and may not be factual or well researched. Always be wary of any content posted on the forums and be sure to do your own research and due diligence on anything suggested. 

We hope you find Rest Less Money a useful resource and we would welcome your feedback at [email protected] on how to make it even better. For more information on any of the above you can read our full terms and conditions.

Some important information about Rest Less Money

We want you to understand the positives, but also the limitations of using our site. We operate in a journalistic manner and therefore all information, guidance or suggestions provided are intended to be general in nature, and you should not rely on any of the information on the site in connection with the making of any financial decision.

When we set out to build Rest Less Money, we wanted to be a trusted place where you could find helpful information about financial matters affecting the over 50s. As a free to use resource, we try hard to provide the best information we can, but we cannot guarantee that we won’t occasionally make mistakes. So please note that you use the information on our site at your own risk, and we can’t accept liability if things go wrong.

Key things to remember when using Rest Less Money:

We do not offer financial advice – As a journalistic site, it’s important to know that we do not provide financial advice. You should always do your own research before choosing any financial product so that you can be certain it is right for you and your specific circumstances. If you are in any doubt, please seek professional financial advice from a regulated financial advisor.

No Liability – please note that you use the information on Rest Less Money at your own risk and we can’t accept liability for how you choose to use the information given on our site. We will often provide links to content or products and services available on other third-party websites. These are provided purely for your convenience and we cannot be held responsible for any content, or any of the products and services offered on any website that we link to.

 

Accuracy of Information – We try to make sure that all the information provided on Rest Less Money is correct at the time of publishing as we want it to be the most helpful resource possible. Sadly, we are not perfect however, and so we can make no guarantees as to the completeness, accuracy, adequacy or suitability of the information available on the site.
Whilst we work hard to try and provide accurate information, deals and prices can change, so whilst they may be correct at the time of writing, providers may subsequently decide to alter them later – so always double check first.

A final note on the Rest Less Community Forums – always remember that anyone can post their opinion on the Rest Less Community Forums, so it can be very different from our own opinion and may not be factual or well researched. Always be wary of any content posted on the forums and be sure to do your own research and due diligence on anything suggested. 

We hope you find Rest Less Money a useful resource and we would welcome your feedback at [email protected] on how to make it even better. For more information on any of the above you can read our full terms and conditions.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Join Rest Less Money Club

Helpful tips and guidance for making the most of your money – straight to your inbox

By providing us your email address you agree to receive emails and communications from us and acknowledge that your personal data will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. You can unsubscribe at any time by following the link in our emails.

Join the Rest Less Money Club

Helpful tips and guidance for making the most of your money – straight to your inbox

Good luck with your application

Before you go, we’d love to stay in touch to find out how you get on. Sign up to Rest Less today to get free job alerts and inspiring content sent straight to your inbox.
By providing your email you agree to receive emails and communications from us and acknowledge that your personal data will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. You can unsubscribe at any time through the link in our emails.