Your will tells everyone what should happen to your money, possessions and property after you die (all these things together are called your ‘estate’). If you don’t leave a will, the law decides how your estate is passed on – and this might not be in line with your wishes.
- Four reasons why you need a will
- Your wishes and who carries them out
- Make sure your will is legally valid
- How to start making a will
Four reasons why you need a will
It’s easy to make a will – and it will save your family unnecessary distress at an already difficult time.
- A will makes it much easier for your family or friends to sort everything out when you die – without a will the process can be more time consuming and stressful.
- If you don’t write a will, everything you own will be shared out in a standard way defined by the law – which isn’t always the way you might want.
- A will can help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax that might be payable on the value of the property and money you leave behind.
- Writing a will is especially important if you have children or other family who depend on you financially, or if you want to leave something to people outside your immediate family.
Your wishes and who carries them out
Your will tells people two very important things:
- Who should have your money, property and possessions when you die.
- Who will be in charge of organising your estate and following the instructions you leave in your will – this person is called your ‘executor’, and you can name more than one person if you want to.
You can also use your will to tell people about any other wishes you have, like instructions for your burial or cremation.
Your executor will do their best to make sure your wishes are followed, as long as they don’t involve breaking the law.
It might not always be possible for your executors to carry out your instructions.
For example, a person you want to leave something to might die before you do, but if you have a will there’s a better chance of things happening the way you want.
Make sure your will is legally valid
Your will doesn’t have to be on special paper or use a lot of legal language.
A document is a valid will as long as it:
- Says how your estate should be shared out when you die.
- Was made when you were able to make your own decisions and you weren’t put under pressure about who to leave things to.
- Is signed and dated by you in the presence of two adult, independent witnesses, and then signed by the two witnesses in your presence – the witnesses can’t be people who are going to inherit anything from you (or their husband/wife or civil partner.
How to start making a will
If your family is small and you want to leave everything to them, making your will is fairly straightforward.
If your situation is more complicated – for example, if you have a second family or you want to leave money and gifts to lots of people – you’ll need to plan more carefully.
Either way, don’t put it off – make sure that what you leave behind will go to the people you intended.
Step 1 – Make a plan
Start by thinking about what you want to leave to whom and then talk to your family – they might have some suggestions you haven’t thought of.
Once you have a plan look at the different options for making a will.
Step 2 – Get your will written
There are a number of ways you can get a will written.
The best option for you depends on how complicated your wishes are:
- a simple will – can cost between £144 and £240
- a complex will – can cost between £150 and £300. It may be more complex as you have been divorced and have children
a specialist will – that involves trusts or oversea properties, or you want tax planning advice – expect to pay a minimum of £500 to £600 according to Which?
- you can buy a template document in stationery shops for as little as £10.
This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.