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How to make a will

Having a will in place is essential, as it is the only way to guarantee that your estate - which is made up of your money, possessions, property and investments - passes to your family and any causes that are close to your heart in the event of your death.

If you die without a will, you will be categorised as ‘dying intestate’, which means your family could face significant legal issues, as your estate will be subject to the rules of intestacy. This is why having a will in place is essential, so as to avoid the distress that this could cause.

According to research carried out by Which?, 54% of adults in the UK do not have a will in place, which means that more than half of families are facing lengthy and expensive court proceedings to receive what they believe is rightfully theirs.

In this guide, we will offer step-by-step instructions on how to make a will, with the aim of encouraging those who do not have one in place to take the first steps in safeguarding their family’s financial future.

How do I make a will?

People very often put making a will off for a number of years, believing it is a task that can be carried out at a later date. However, having a will in place is essential for the protection of your family in the event of your death. Having a will in place can also help you to save on inheritance tax and prevent family disputes about how your possessions should be divided.

There are many reasons why someone may wish to have a will in place, such as:

  • You have children who are dependent on you
  • You are in an unmarried relationship
  • You have specific wishes for your funeral
  • Your personal circumstances have changed
  • Inheritance tax is a significant concern for you

Below, we outline the steps required to make a valid will.

Step 1: Calculate the value of your assets

The first step to writing a will is to work out the value of your estate. You should do this by writing a list of everything you own, including any debts you may have that are outstanding.

An estate is made up of the following assets:

  • Any property you own, including your home - as well as the furniture and contents
  • Motor vehicles that you own
  • Savings you may have in bank or building society accounts, as well as national savings, such as premium bonds
  • Insurance policies, such as life insurance or an endowment policy
  • Pension funds, including a lump sum payment to be paid in the event of your death
  • Any investments you hold, including stocks and shares or investment trusts
  • Valuable personal belongings, such as artwork, jewellery or antiques

You should ensure that your will is up to date by having your assets valued regularly. This will allow for the figures to be adjusted if anything has been increased or lost.

The next step is to consider any debts you have outstanding. This should include:

  • Your mortgage
  • Outstanding credit card balances
  • Bank overdrafts
  • Loans
  • Equity release debts

Step 2: Decide on your beneficiaries

The decision on selecting who you will leave your assets to - or beneficiaries, as they are also known - comes with significant implications and should not be taken lightly. This is why it is vital that you take some time to make this decision.

You should decide:

  • Who will benefit from your will
  • Whether you wish to leave any specific gifts, and who you will leave these to
  • Whether there is any property or money left over after paying for funeral and administrative expenses, legacies and taxes - and who this will go to
  • What you want to happen in the event that any of your beneficiaries pass away before you do

If you want to leave a gift to charity, you should ensure that you leave the full name of the organisation, as well as their registered charity number and address.

Step 3: Choose your executors

An executor will organise the administration of your estate in the event of your death. This should be someone you know and trust, and is usually a friend or family member. It is not essential that they are related to you, but it should always be someone who is willing to take on this role. You are permitted to appoint someone who stands to inherit from your will.

Choosing at least two executors is recommended to allow these individuals to share the responsibility. In the event that you do not have someone who you believe could take on this role, you can employ a professional to do this for you - including a solicitor.

Step 5: Write your will

There are several options available to you when it comes to writing a will, including writing a will online; however, these are not always the most reliable. Enlisting a trustworthy and experienced solicitor will help to make sure that your will is legally binding and meets your needs.

You can find out about Ramsdens Solicitors’ will writing services here.

Step 6: Ensure your will is valid

A will must be signed in the presence of independent witnesses in order for it to be valid.

There are strict instructions when it comes to signing a will and failure to follow these may mean your will is invalid.

Your beneficiaries cannot act as witnesses, and if they do, they will lose their right to the inheritance. This is why they should not be present in the room when the will is signed.

Your will should be made out voluntarily and without any undue pressure from any other parties and it is essential that you have the requisite mental capacity to make it.

Step 7: Keep your will safe

Your will should be stored in a safe place, preferably with a solicitor or bank. You should keep your executors in the know about where the will is kept at all times.

Enlisting help from a solicitor when writing a will will make the process as simple and stress-free as possible. You should take the time to make decisions relating to your will carefully, and be sure it is updated with any changes to your circumstances or estate.

Contact Ramsdens Solicitors

Our experienced wills and probate solicitors can assist with all aspects of making a will. Contact us today by calling 01484 821 500, or fill out an online contact form and we will be in touch at a time that is suitable for you.