Making a Will
Simply put, a will is the only certain way to ensure that your wishes are met after you pass away. With a valid will, you can give your money, property, possessions and investments (also known as your estate) to the people, organisations and causes you value most.
If you do not have a valid will, you are considered “intestate” and your estate is divided according to the rules of intestacy, not your wishes. Under these rules, only married or civil partners and some close relatives can inherit your estate.
Dying Without a Will (Intestate)
Married and civil partners only inherit under the rules of intestacy if they were married at the time of death and take precedence over children and grandchildren. If there are surviving descendants, the partner will receive all the personal property and belongings, the first £250,000 of the estate (provided the estate is valued over £250,000) and half of the remaining estate.
If there are no surviving descendants, the partner will inherit all the personal property and belongings, and the entirety of the estate with interest from the date of death. For more info, please contact our Will and Probate team directly, or consult the Citizen’s Advice Bureau for free advice.
How to Write a Will
Writing a will can be summarised in five stages:
- >Value your Estate
- >Decide How You Will Divide Your Estate
- >Choose Your Executors
- >Write Your Will
- >Sign Your Will
However, these stages can prove extremely complicated and time-consuming if you do not have expert help. Even if your estate is small and your will is extremely simple, we recommend seeking expert advice to make sure that it is legally binding.
Valuing Your Estate
In order to value your estate, you first need to define your estate. Make a list of all your assets and debts, including loans, physical property, investments, etc. Assets that typically make up an estate include, but are not limited to:
- >Your home and any other property owned by you
- >Savings in bank and building society accounts
- >National Savings (such as premium bonds)
- >Insurance policies, including endowment policies and life assurance
- >Pension funds including lump sum payments upon death
- >Investments such as trusts, stocks and shares
- >Motor Vehicles
- >Jewellery, art, antiques and other personal belongings
- Furnishings, furniture and other household contents
Debts that typically make up an estate include, but are not limited to:
- >Credit Card Balances
- >Bank Overdrafts
- >Equity Release(s)
It is important to value your assets on a regular basis, as their value will change over time, especially for properties, vehicles and antiques.
Dividing Your Estate
Choosing how to share your estate is a deeply personal question that we recommend you settle on before consulting Knightsbridge Solicitors for legal advice and guidance. After deciding how to divide your estate, you need to make sure that the instructions in our will are clear – think about:
- >Who you want to benefit – give a full name, address and contact details.
- >Whether you want to give specific gifts – such as an heirloom ring to a daughter
- >What to do with the ‘residue of the estate’ – where to give any property/money left after covering funeral and admin expenses, legacies and taxes
- >What to do if any beneficiaries die before you – if a relative dies, should their children receive the intended gifts instead, for example?
Choosing Your Executors
An executor is someone appointed to execute – or carry out – the instructions and requests of your will. They will oversee transfers of funds, ownership of properties and take care of the associated paperwork.
Being an executor can involve a lot of work and responsibility, especially with larger estates. For small estates with simple wills, it might be best to appoint a family member or friend as executor. However, many people appoint legal professionals as executors, and we can advise you of the benefits of such an approach for your case.
Writing Your Will
Once you have valued your estate, decided how to divide it, appointed an executor, all that’s left is to write your will. While it is possible to write a will yourself, you must seek legal advice to proof-read it and ensure that it is legally binding at the bare minimum.
Below is a list of ways to write your will with descriptions:
- >Lawyers/Solicitors: Knightsbridge Solicitors have a specialist Will and Probate team and can give you expert advice and guidance through every step of the will writing process. We are accredited by The Law Society and will ensure that your wishes are respected at every stage with a bespoke service.
- >Professional Will Writers: There are many firms and freelancers offering will writing services out there, but will writers are not necessarily qualified solicitors and may not be regulated. Before you use a Will Writer, you should check if they are registered with the Institute of Professional Willwriters first.
- >Charities: Several charities and some specific campaigns offer free will-drafting services with the aim of increasing charitable legacies (though you have no obligation to donate). If you have a favourite charity, check with them first, or consult Will Aid, Free Wills Month or Age UK.
- >Banks: Some banks offer will-writing services and estate planning advice but may charge for these services. Contact your local branch to find out what they can do and whether they charge fees.
- >DIY: You can always write our own will, but you need to ensure that it is legally valid. Your will must be written and signed in accordance with UK law, so you should seek expert advice to make sure that it is valid.
Signing Your Will
Officially signing your will is essential – without a legally recognised signature, your will is null and void. However, you don’t necessarily need a legal expert to make your signature legally binding. All that’s needed is:
- >Your Signature: Make sure to use your ‘normal’ signature so it is recognisable.
- >The Date: To verify that it is the latest version, and to prove the witness’ testimony.
- >Two Witnesses: Your witnesses must be legal adults of sound mind who can verify your identity and understand the importance of witnessing your will. You should avoid asking friends, family and potential beneficiaries to sign, due to conflicts of interest.
- >Legible Signatures from the Witnesses: They need to legibly write their name and witness the signing of all parties to verify your will. This allows an independent party to verify your will.
To learn more or book a consultation for any of our Will and Probate services, please visit the relevant pages or contact us on 0115 824 1700 today.