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Writing a will

It is a staggering statistic that about two-thirds of all adults in the UK have not yet made a will. As all these people will die eventually and the vast majority will have family, surely they would want their estate to be left to their loved ones when they depart. Now is the time to stop putting the matter to the back of your mind and take action. Make a will!

Why should make a will

The benefits of making a will are obvious; it places you in control over what happens to your money, property, possessions when you die. Failing to make one could leave your loved ones facing a time consuming and expensive legal wrangle to attain what they consider rightfully theirs when the time comes. This is frustrating, especially as making a will is a relatively simple procedure.

  • Making a will

Before doing so it does require some degree of thought. Of course you will not know the value of your estate at the time of your death but you will know how you would want it divided. Will you give everything to one person, are there several people you would want to leave something to, do you have any debts that should be taken account of?

  • Things to consider

Make a list of the people you would want to leave anything to. If you have children under the age of 18 you should state who you would wish to look after them. If you want to make a donation to a particular charity this is of course perfectly allowed if clearly stated in the will.

  • Executor

You should also give some thought to who you would want to manage the estate after your death. The executor (there can be more than one) is the person responsible for collecting all the assets, paying off any debts and ultimately distributing the remaining assets to those in the will. Beneficiaries in a will can and often do become executors.

  • Writing the will yourself or getting help

People can write the will themselves but many choose not to do so simply because any mistakes would lead to it being invalid. It you are unsure what should go in the will or what is necessary to make it valid, it is best to have the services of an expert and getting one drawn up or witnessed by a solicitor generally costs in the region of £200.

If you are unsure whether to hire the services of a legal expert it is worth bearing in mind that some people have had to resort to spending thousands of pounds undoing the damage done by a DIY will so, in those circumstances, £200 is maybe not such a high cost for making sure you avoid any legal complexities in the future, even if you are not here to see it.

  • Signatures

The will has to be signed by the person making it which has to be witnessed by two people who also sign it themselves. The witnesses can’t themselves benefit from the will, nor can their spouse. If they do the will remains valid but that witness will not be able to inherit. The will should also contain the date on which it was signed.

  • Storage

Once the will has been completed, it is important to notify people of its location, certainly the executor at least. Some get their will stored at home but others leave it with their solicitor for safekeeping. It is advisable to review the will you have made regularly to ensure that your wishes are still reflected in it.

  • Alterations

If you do wish to make changes to it, this is relatively straightforward and is done by way of a codicil which is a supplement to the original will, making alterations to a particular part of it but leaving the rest unaltered. If there are several changes proposed or significant ones, then it is advisable to make a new will completely.

Another reason to get a solicitor is to deal with inheritance tax. They will help ensure you don’t pay any more than you need to.