There's no denying it: Making a will is a sobering business. But, at the end of the day, for most of us, it's about taking care of our loved ones. 

More than half of British adults don’t have a will. And maybe that's because we don't like thinking about what things will be like without us. 

Even though the coronavirus means people are social distancing, it’s still possible to make a will.

Meetings with legal advisers can take place online or over the phone.

Wills can be witnessed and signed through windows or in an open space. But you must follow social distancing guidelines at all times: Stay at least two metres apart, don’t share transmission objects like pens, and wash your hands or use hand sanitiser.

Why is a will important?

It doesn’t matter how much money you have: everyone should have a will.

A will lets you decide what happens to your possessions (your estate) after you die. It can also save on inheritance tax.

What a will lets you do

  1. You can decide who should get your property after you die. Without a will, an estate is shared according to the Rules of Intestacy, meaning the things you own may not go to the people you want.
  2. Unmarried couples, and those not in civil partnerships, can inherit from each other. Without a will, they will not receive anything.
  3. If you’re a parent, you can name someone to look after your children who are aged under 18.
  4. You can name an executor(s) to look after your financial affairs.
  5. You can change your will as your life changes. For example, if someone has separated from their spouse or civil partner, they can take them out of their will.

Ways to make a will

There are many ways to make a will. People can write their own, go to a will-writing firm or charity, or use a regulated legal adviser.

For complicated wills and those with large estates, it’s a good idea to use a regulated legal adviser.

Even if you’re writing your own will, consider asking a regulated legal adviser to check it.

Some charities offer will-writing services. Citizens Advice also offers free help.

There is also lots of advice online and forms you can use.

Some people work as professional will-writers for will-writing companies. These companies are not regulated. But some belong to The Institute of Professional Willwriters, which has a code of practice approved by Trading Standards.

Using a regulated legal adviser

Think about using a regulated legal adviser to make your will if any of the following apply to you.

  1. You share a property with someone who is not your spouse or civil partner.
  2. Many people could make a claim on your possessions, such as children, a former spouse, stepchildren.
  3. You have a dependant who will need care after you die.
  4. You own a business.
  5. Your main home is not in the UK.
  6. You own more than one property.
  7. You own overseas properties.

Regulated legal advisers usually charge fees for writing or checking wills. Always ask for prices beforehand. The cost of a will normally depends on how big or complicated the estate is.

Common mistakes

It’s easy to make mistakes when writing a will.

Lack of clarity in a will can lead to disputes later on and even litigation. So it’s important to get things right.

If a will is not drawn up and executed properly, it can even be invalid.

Common mistakes include:

  1. not witnessing the will properly
  2. a child or partner being a witness
  3. not taking account of divorces, deaths, and children
  4. not including all possessions
  5. forgetting debts
  6. not naming guardians for children
  7. leaving out stepchildren
  8. not naming an executor.

Save time and money

Here are some simple steps to take before you start making a will:

  1. List all your possessions.
  2. Write down the details of pensions, bank accounts, insurance, and other policies.
  3. List people you want to include in your will.
  4. Name guardians for children.
  5. Do you want to make a gift to a charity in your will? 
  6. Who do you want to act as your executor(s)?

Checking your will is valid

Your will is only valid if these conditions apply:

  1. You are 18 or over.
  2. You made it voluntarily and without interference from others.
  3. You are of sound mind and aware of the full details.
  4. You signed it before two witnesses.
  5. You had it witnessed by people who are not in the will. If a witness, or their spouse or civil partner, is in the will, it will still be valid, but they will not receive anything. So it is always advisable that beneficiaries of a will do not witness it.

Once signed, your will should be kept in a safe place, such as a bank. You can keep a copy at home.

Want to learn more about making a will?

Ar you ready to make a will? Do you want to learn more about making a will? There's more information right here on our website. To get started, take a look at I want to make a will.

Good to know

Legal Choices is a free website run by legal services regulators. The information here is independent and just the facts. We're not trying to sell you anything. We just tell you about things that are good to know to help you make better choices about legal issues and lawyers.

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Your Comments

Peter Webb says:

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 07:57
Comment
Very good tips. Thank you.

Donna Owen says:

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 17:11
Comment
Hi my parents have a will that they paid for but the company no longer exists, does this matter? We have the official copies of the wills and paperwork.

Kind Regards

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