How do I write a will?
If you’re planning on dying, you’ll need to put in some legal groundwork for when the event happens. Here’s a rundown of what will writing involves.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document indicating what you want to happen to your stuff when you die.
When you write a will, these are some areas to keep in mind
- Who you want to benefit from your will
- Who should look after any children under 18
- Who you will appoint as executor to carry out your wishes stated in the will after your death
- What happens if those you want to benefit die before you
- Who receives the remainder of your money and property
What if I don’t make a will?
A will isn’t a legal requirement. If you die without writing one then everything you own will be shared out according to standards set out by law. However, this won’t take into account your own particular circumstances.
Why should I write a will?
This jargon involving an ‘estate’ may lead you to think you haven’t got anything worth making a will for. But wills aren’t just for those with a country pile and a couple of off-shore accounts – they can be helpful for your family and your own peace of mind.
They help start a conversation about death
Making it known that you’re writing a will can easily be turned into a tactful conversation about your inevitable death, the end of life run-up and anything you want your family to know about concerning this.
They provide certainty
A will makes sure that your wishes are carried out, providing satisfaction as to where your stuff will end up and who will benefit. You can also set out any funeral plans, if you’ve thought about them. This means you can ensure your relatives sit through a pre-recorded rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ at the end of a service, for example.
They are useful for your relatives
Writing out a will makes it easier for your family to sort out all the stuff you’ve left behind. Without it, the process can be time consuming.
How to start writing a will
Start by thinking about what you have, what you want to leave and who you want to leave it to.
Your assets may include:
- Any savings in a bank account
- Any property
- A pension
- Stocks, shares, bonds and funds
- Any valuable objects
- Any invaluable objects, like the unexplained mug adorned with a photo of a one-eyed cat
To get it down in writing and, most importantly, legal, then you have some options:
- Using a solicitor
- Using a will writing service
- Writing it yourself
Using a solicitor
They know the jargon and the tight turns of phrase needed to jot down your preferences. A will drawn up by a solicitor can cost between £100 and £500. It’s expensive, but here’s a rundown of the benefits of using a solicitor:
- If your estate or family situation is a little more complicated – such as if you have property overseas, you have children with a previous partner, you run a business or you’re liable for Inheritance Tax – a solicitor will know how to deal with this
- They won’t make silly mistakes, such as using someone under 18 or a pet as your witness
- Your will is stored safely
- A solicitor can be named as your executor
Using a will-writing service
This is usually cheaper than a solicitor, around £75 and upwards, and is sometimes offered as a free service by charities for those over 55.
Here’s what to consider before using the cheaper option:
- The will writer may not be legally qualified
- Will writers aren’t regulated in the same way as solicitors
- Extra services, such as looking after your will, may be paid separately
Writing it yourself
Basic legal requirements stand between you and your DIY will. A will is a legal document and you probably don’t want to spend your free time wading through a probate law textbook (unless, of course, that does it for you).
However, it is cheap and templates can be easily bought online. This may be an option only if your situation and plan for your assets is very simple. You’ll need to look out for typos and make sure it’s signed, dated and witnessed according to regulations.
Will writing isn’t an art we’re all well versed in. Though, as any self-respecting lawyer will tell you, it’s an essential one. More than just a legal document, a will can get you talking about death and provide a good starting point to let other people know your wishes for after you go.