Wills and Probate

Writing a Will

By making a will, you can decide what happens to your estate after your death. If you do not make a will then the law will decide how your money, property and possessions are dealt with and this may not coincide with how you would have wished. There are other reasons it is important to make a will:

  • If you have a partner but you are unmarried, the partner cannot inherit from you without a will
  • If you have children, you will need to make arrangements for their welfare if you die
  • You can reduce the amount of tax payable on inheritance if a will is made
  • It is also important to make changes to your will if your circumstances have changed, for example if you have divorced or separated from your partner.

writing will

Can I Write a Will Myself?

It is possible to write your will without the aid of a solicitor yet you should only do this if your will is straightforward. When writing your will, you should consider:

  • Which of your relatives or non-relatives you would like to benefit from your will
  • Who you would like to take responsibility of any of your children under 18
  • Who you would like to carry out your wishes and deal with your estate after your death
  • What will change if your beneficiaries die before yourself

Why it is Advisable to Use a Solicitor

Using a solicitor to draw up or check your will ensures that the document will have the effect you wish. Mistakes in your will could result in considerable legal costs. Mistakes in making a will may include:

  • Being unaware that your will has not been made legally valid
  • Not taking into account all of the money, property or possessions you own
  • Not allowing for the possibility that one or more beneficiaries may die before yourself
  • Changing the will without valid signatures and witnesses
  • Being unaware of the effect of a marriage or divorce on a will
  • Being unaware of the rules that allow dependants to claim from your estate if they feel they have been inadequately provided for

You may particularly need the help of a solicitor if:

  • You share your property with someone who is not your wife, husband or civil partner
  • You want to make a particular provision for a dependant who is unable to provide their own care
  • There is a risk of family members making a claim on the will
  • You do not permanently live in the UK
  • You own property overseas
  • You own or own part of a business

Choosing Executors

The executors are the people you choose to carry out the wishes you write in your will, after your death. They will have the responsibility of managing the paperwork and paying the debts, taxes and funeral costs out of your estate money. They will also manage the transfer of your estate to other beneficiaries. Therefore, it is important to take care with choosing your executors and to ask whether they are willing to take on the responsibility.

It is advisable to appoint more than one executor just in case one dies. The people you may wish to appoint as executors are:

  • Family or friends
  • Solicitors or accountants
  • Banks
  • The Public Trustee

Requirements for a Valid Will

A will is only valid when:

  • It is in writing
  • It has been made by a person at least 18 years old
  • It has been made voluntarily
  • It has been made with a person who is fully aware of the proceedings, with a sound mind
  • It is signed by the person making the will with two witnesses present
  • It is signed by the two witnesses present

Where to Keep Your Will

It is important to keep your will in a safe place and tell your executor where it is. You may wish to store your will with your other important documents at home, with your bank, with your solicitor or with a company that offers the storage of wills.