Writing A Will
A will is the only sure-fire – and legal – way to ensure your estate (money, property, possessions and investments) goes to the people and causes you care about. Writing or updating a will is one of those things we often push to the bottom of the To Do list, but it needn’t be an onerous task and the start of the new year is a good opportunity to get your affairs in order. We’ve broken it down into these simple steps:
Start by valuing your estate. Draw up a list of your assets and debts. Assets usually include any property you own as well as items such as jewellery, antiques, cars, furniture etc, financial savings, premium bonds, life assurance, pension funds, stocks and shares or investment trusts. Debts may include a mortgage, credit card balance, overdraft, loan and equity release.
Be absolutely clear on who you want to benefit from your will. This may include specific gifts to particular people, where/who any of the estate should go to once funeral and administrative expenses, legacies and taxes are paid – and what should happen if any of your beneficiaries die before you.
If you plan to leave a charitable donation in your will, make sure you include your chosen charity’s full name, address and registered charity number to ensure they receive the gift.
Executors are the people who deal with distributing your estate after you’ve died; it can involve a lot of work and responsibility, so choose wisely – and don’t forget to let them know where your will is lodged.
Writing the will itself can be done in a variety of ways.
- Lawyers: most people receive advice from a lawyer (solicitor or chartered legal executive), often one who specialises in wills and probate.
- Professional will writers: these aren’t qualified solicitors and may not be regulated so be sure to check whether they are a member of the Institute of Professional Willwriters.
- DIY will: A will is a legal document so it needs to be written and signed correctly. If you decide to make your own will, or use a DIY pack from a stationers, it’s worth seeking advice first.
- Charities occasionally offer free will-drafting services to encourage will-making and charitable legacies (although there’s no obligation). If there’s a particular charity that you wish to support, find out if they provide this service.
- Banks: Some banks offer will-writing services and advice about estate planning. Contact your local branch to book an appointment with an adviser to find out what they can offer.
Now you must sign your will in the presence of independent witnesses for it to be valid.
Store your will safely with a solicitor, bank, securely at home or with the Probate Service.
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