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.

Solicitor wills

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

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.

DIY wills

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.

Do I need a will?

You need a will if you want to ensure your money, possessions and property are distributed according to your wishes. Without a will, the law decides how your estate is divided which could mean an ex-partner inheriting against your wishes, an unmarried partner inheriting nothing, or children left unsupported.

Regardless of your age, if you have property, savings or a business; children, stepchildren or grandchildren or whether you are married, divorced or separated, you should seriously consider making a will.

What happens if you die without a will in the UK?

Dying without a will in the UK means that the law will decide who inherits your estate according to the intestacy rules. This can leave people in an extremely vulnerable position; especially given the complex lives we live these days.

For example, without a will:

  • Unmarried couples can't inherit from each other
  • Children from former marriages may not be provided for if you have remarried
  •  Provision may not be made for children if both parents die
  • Married couples may not inherit the whole estate

What are the intestacy rules?

The intestacy rules set out how in the absence of a will, a person’s estate should be divided amongst family. The order of these old and antiquated rules essentially only allows married or civil partners and some close relatives to inherit, which is why making a will is so important.

The intestacy rules may vary depending on where you live in the UK however for England and Wales the following applies:

  • Married couples or those in a civil partnership with no children inherit the entire estate
  • Married couples or those in a civil partnership with children inherit the first £250,000 of the estate. Anything beyond this is divided between your spouse (50%) and your children (50% held in trust if they are under 18).
  • Unmarried couples with no children inherit nothing. Instead the estate goes to the deceased’s parents or closest blood relative.
  • Unmarried couples with children inherit nothing. Instead the estate is passed on to the child or children.
  • How much does it cost to make a will?

    The cost of making a will depends on whether you use a solicitor, will writing service or do it yourself. Depending on the complexity, expect to pay between £200 - £600 for solicitors; £50 to £150 for will writing services or £30 for a DIY template or online will.

    For example a Single Will from specialists Farewill will cost £90 or £140 for you and your partner. Find our more about the Will writing service from Farewill here.

    Keep in mind though that your will must be legally valid so the cheapest option may not necessarily be the best.

    What are the different types of will?

    The type of will you require will be based on your requirements and personal situation:

    Single wills

    A simple Will suitable for an individual. It includes the appointment of the executors, noting of any gifts and details the beneficiary who will receive the remainder of the estate once all other beneficiaries have received their inheritance and debts have been paid.

    You can make a single Will whether you have a partner or not.

    Mirror wills

    Like the Single Will but Intended for couples. Mirror Wills are two Wills which are almost identical but for the name of the partner, hence the name mirror will.

    Trust wills

    A Trust Will is where one or more individuals are made legally responsible for holding assets such as land, money, buildings or shares on behalf of the beneficiaries.

    Discretionary trust wills

    Similar to Trust Wills but rather than you deciding how your Estate should be split, it is left to the Trustees to decide based on the circumstances at the time. These can be useful for people who have concerns about a vulnerable person inheriting a lump sum.

    Property trust wills and flexible will trusts

    Your share of the property is placed into trust protecting its value and ensuring that your beneficiaries receive some inheritance should the surviving partner remarry or end up needing residential care.

    A way of protecting the value of assets for future generations. Your assets are held in a trust which pays income generated to your surviving partner for their lifetime. When your partner has died, the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries.

    Living wills

    A living Will or Advanced Decision gives you the opportunity to dictate the type of treatment you wish to receive if you are physically unable to communicate your wishes. A living will therefore records your wishes whilst living; not how your estate should be distributed once you have died.

    Charity wills and free wills month

    Some charities offer free will writing services in the hope that you’ll leave a donation in your will however this isn’t usually obligatory. Free Wills Month, where national charities and participating solicitors offer a limited number of over 55s a free will is one good example of how this works.

     

    What should I do next?

    If you are looking for a simple Will for yourself or your partner, we recommend the services of specialist will writers, Farewill.

    They provide an easy step by step online service with the added benefit of telephone support should you need it. Your will is then checked by their professional experts, so you can be sure it is legally binding.

    It takes less than 30 minutes to set up and as a thank you for using the service, we will give you a £20 John Lewis Voucher. Click on the button below to find out more.

    Make a Will

    Your questions answered

    • What is an executor of a will?
      • The executor of a will is the person(s) you nominate to handle your estate when you die. This includes applying for probate, paying off debts and managing your finances and distributing your estate. You can choose up to four executors, all of whom should be named in your will.

    • Can an executor be a beneficiary?
      • An executor can be a beneficiary but it’s not a requirement. Most people choose their spouse, civil partner or children as executor, but you could have a professional such as a solicitor or accountant if you prefer. The only requirement is that they must be at least 18 years old.

    • Do you need a solicitor to write a will?
      • You don’t need a solicitor to write a will; you can use a will writing service or do it yourself but this is only advisable if your affairs are straightforward.

        Your will does need to be legally valid though so even if you don’t use a solicitor, getting it checked by a specialist may be worthwhile.

    • Are home made wills legal?
      • A home-made will can be legal if it’s voluntarily made in writing, by someone over the age of 18 who is of sound mind and signed by 2 independent witnesses.

    • How do I write a will for free?
      • Free wills are available through some charities at certain times of the year however there are limitations in terms of age and availability. Although the service is free, the charity hopes that in return, you will leave them a donation in your will.

    • What are the requirements for a will to be valid?
      • For a will to be legal it needs to be written by someone who is:

        • At least 18 years of age
        • Voluntarily making the will
        • Of sound mind
      • It then needs to be signed by 2 independent witnesses

    • What should I include in my will?
      • Your will should include:

        • Your executors
        • Your beneficiaries
        • What happens if a beneficiary dies?
        • How you want your estate distributed
        • Who should look after any dependents?
    • How should I keep my will?
      • It’s important to keep your will in a secure place such as with your solicitor, at your bank or with a company that offers will storage facilities and tell an executor, close friend or relative where it is.

    • How often should I update my will?
      • Life is constantly changing so it makes sense to check and where necessary update your Will every few years. You should definitely revisit your Will if you are:

        • getting married, remarried or registering a civil partnership
        • getting divorced
        • having children or grandchildren
        • buying or selling property

    Would you like us to call you?

    If you have any questions or would like our legal team to make your Will for you, then ask us to call you

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