Making a Will
Making a will is one of those things that many of us never give a second thought, but they are so important for a number of reasons. A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes after your death.
These wishes relate to your finances, property, possessions and care of children under the age of 16 years. When you create a will it is a legally binding document that is made in writing, signed by witnesses and completed properly.
Wills that are incorrectly prepared or not signed and witnessed properly may be invalid. This will result in a number of problems when it comes to administering your estate.
If you are not married or in a registered civil partnership but you are living with a partner then it is even more important to ensure that your wishes are carried out.
UK law does not recognise cohabitants as having the same rights as a husband, wife or civil partner.
Consequently even if you have been living together for a number of years, your partner may be left with nothing if you have not made a will.
Wills are also essential if you have children or dependants under the age of sixteen years. Without a will problems may occur in terms of custody and who will provide for your child(ren) in the event of your death.
A will is particularly important in the following situations;
- There are several people who would make a claim on your estate after your death because they are dependants in a financial sense
- You would like to incorporate a trust in your will. This could be a provision for young children or a disabled person for example. Or it could be used as a tax saving strategy or a safeguard for your assets
- If you are not a British citizen or your permanent residence is not in the UK
- Perhaps you live in the UK but you own property overseas
- If you have any interest in business whether this is full or part ownership
In the months or years after your will has been drafted, there may be a change in your circumstances.
Typical changes in circumstances include marriage, separation, divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership.
As a result it is important that you review your will regularly to reflect any major changes in your life. A Solicitor will usually be able to advise when a change may be required.
Making a Will Through a Solicitor
It is possible to make a will without a solicitor but it is not recommended. Making a will is like many other legal processes and you need to ensure that all of the formalities have been followed to ensure that the final will is valid.
Without seeking support from a solicitor, a mistake may be made which can result in problems in the future.
When you have chosen a solicitor there are several pieces of information that the solicitor will need to know including;
- Specific information on what you own – This will include property, cars, valuables, stocks and/or shares, insurance policies, bank accounts, savings, businesses and any pensions
- Your wishes – Within this section of your will you will need to state who you would like your assets to be left to. You will also need to take into consideration how your estate will be divided up if you have several children or other people you want to leave something to. Within your will you can also specify certain conditions such as children receiving money when they reach the age of 18.
- The solicitor will also need to know about your family and any other beneficiaries.
- They will need to know if you are divorced or have had a civil partnership dissolved, or whether you have remarried or entered into another partnership and whether you have any dependants
What to Include When Making a Will
When making a will you may need to specify a guardian for your children if they are under the age of 18. If this is the case you will need to appoint someone as their legal guardian.
A will can also include a range of other provisions such as your wishes for your funeral, burial or cremation or any other instructions that you would like to leave.
Your will is a personal document and there are no rules as such that determine what you can and cannot include.
The document will also state who your executors will be. Executors are the people who will be responsible for administering your estate after your death.
An executor could be a bank, solicitor, friend or family member. It is advised that you choose someone who is familiar with financial matters and ensure that you check with the Executor before naming them to make sure that they are happy to act in this capacity.
An Executor is a long term responsibility, particularly if your will includes some kind of trust.
Once the will has been created and you are happy with the information contained within it, there are several rules that must be complied with in terms of the signature process.
If this stage is not carried out correctly it can invalidate your will. A witness cannot be a husband, wife, partner or beneficiary under the will. Many people will often request a solicitors office to witness the will which avoids this being an issue.
After the will has been written and signed, it is entirely up to you where it is stored. It is important however to let your executors know where the will is kept.
Some people ask their solicitor to keep their will for them and many solicitors will store the will for free, while others may request a small fee for doing so.
Revising your will is important, particularly if there is a major change in your life. It is advised that you revise your will every four to five years so any changes such as additional children, moving house, divorce or separation can be taken into consideration.
The cost of creating a will can vary depending on a number of factors such as;
The knowledge and experience of the solicitor that you appoint
The complexity of your will
Before you choose a solicitor you should carry out some research to find the best one for your circumstances. Cost however should not be the only consideration to factor in when making a will. It is important to find a qualified solicitor who is knowledgeable and experienced in will writing.
About the author:
This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.