Writing a will - it's easier than you think
Writing a will ensures your money, property and possessions go to those you care about, yet 60% of UK adults still don’t have one. If you die without making a will, your estate is divided according to the government’s intestacy rules, which may not be in line with your wishes.
In this guide: How to make a will, what it costs, why you should have one and how to ensure it's legally valid.
What is a will
A Will is a legal document that states what should happen to your money, possessions and property when you die. In addition to naming the executor and setting out how your estate should be distributed; a will can also confirm who should be appointed legal guardian for children under 18.
Also, if your estate is subject to inheritance tax, a Will could help mitigate or at least reduce the amount paid.
How to make a will
To make a Will you need to set out:
- The executor of the Will
- The beneficiaries
- How your estate should be divided amongst the beneficiaries
- Who should look after children under 18
- What happens if the beneficiaries die before you
To ensure your will is legally valid, it must be:
- Written by someone who is at least 18 years old
- Made voluntarily and without pressure
- Made by a person of sound mind
- In writing
- Signed by the person writing the Will in the presence of two witnesses
- Signed by the two witnesses in the presence of the person making the Will
Making a Will doesn’t have to be complicated as help is available from solicitors, online and through will writing services. The following information explains how these services work, so you can choose the best option for you.
Using a solicitor is the most expensive way of writing a will with costs ranging from £200 to £600 dependent on the complexity of your affairs. However, if your will is not straightforward, it may be worth paying the higher price to ensure its legally valid with everything accounted for.
For example, you may want to consider using a solicitor to write your will if you:
- Have property overseas
- Run a business
- Are liable for inheritance tax
- Own a property with someone who is not your spouse or civil partner
- Have children from a previous marriage
- Want to make provision for a dependent who is unable to care for themselves
If your requirements are straightforward, one of the budget will writing services may be worth considering.
Having said that, with a solicitor you:
- Can be confident there will be no mistakes
- Are leagally protected if something goes wrong
- Will usually have your Will stored securely in the solicitors safe
Will writing services
Will writing services are provided by specialist will writers either face to face, online or by post. Under their guidance you list your assets, executors and beneficiaries and agree how to distribute your estate. The will writer then provides a draft for you and your witnesses to agree and sign.
They are usually on hand to guide you through the whole process and cheaper than a solicitor, however regulation isn’t the same for will writers as it is for solicitors, so you don’t have the same protection if anything goes wrong.
For your security, we therefore recommend you choose a will writing service that is either regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), or belongs to:
- The Society of Will Writers
- The Institute of Professional Will Writers
This way you can be certain the company is regulated and fully trained, insured to cover legal costs if your will is challenged and follow the code of practise approved by the Trading Standards Institute.
Online wills offer a cheaper will writing service however it’s important to check what you are getting for your money. Some online wills are purely automated, which means they will just print your requirements and you don’t benefit from specialist guidance.
Also, surprisingly will writers don't have to be regulated. Therefore look for an SRA regulated or one that is supported by members of the Society of Will Writers or Institute of Professional Writers.
DIY wills are the cheapest way you can write a will however it is important to ensure they are legally valid so it may be worth opting for one of the many will templates available in shops and online and if necessary, getting your will approved by a qualified expert.
A DIY Will may save money at the outset, however if your requirements are anything but straightforward, it would be advisable to pay for professional help, be it a will writing service or solicitor to ensure no mistakes are made.