Making a will in England and Wales
Whatever your age, having an up-to-date and valid will is important.
The ways people can plan ahead vary across the four nations of the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and there are also some legal differences. The web pages in this section are about the ways people can plan ahead if they live in England and Wales. If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland you should ask a healthcare or legal professional to give you information that’s relevant to that country.
Dying without a will means that your wishes for who you would like to leave your estate (property, personal possessions and money) to can’t be guaranteed.
Although I found it difficult to make a will, I now know that when I do die the people who I love and care for will be able to benefit from my material possessions.
If you die without a will, this is known as dying intestate. When someone dies intestate, it often takes much longer to deal with the estate and it can also be complicated. There are strict rules known as intestacy rules, which set out who should deal with the deceased’s affairs and who should inherit their estate. This may mean that the people who inherit the estate aren’t the people you would have chosen.
A professionally-written will can help reduce any problems or disputes in the future. It’s best to use a solicitor when making or updating your will to make sure that all legal procedures are followed. The process doesn’t have to be lengthy or expensive. It’s worth shopping around or asking for a quote before committing yourself to a specific solicitor.
If you need help to find a local solicitor you can contact the Law Society of England and Wales.
Things to think about when making your will
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Before you meet with a solicitor it will help to think about the following:
What you have to leave in your will and what is the value of your estate
You may want to start by making a list of everything you own (assets) and how much they’re worth. This might include your house, your car, your jewellery, bank and building society accounts, saving accounts and life insurance policies.
Next, make a list of everything you owe (liabilities) and how much it adds up to. This includes your outstanding mortgage balance, any overdrafts, credit card debts and bank loans.
Add together your total assets and subtract the amount of your total liabilities to find the value of your estate.
Who to include in your will
Make a list of the family and friends you want to remember in your will and consider what you want to leave them. For example, you might want to give a particular person a specific amount of money, or an item with real or sentimental value, such as a piece of jewellery. You may also want to consider leaving money to a charity.
Other important information to include in your will
Other things you’ll need to think about include: who you want to appoint as your executors (people responsible for settling your affairs); who you want to be the legal guardian(s) of your children (if you have children and they are under 18); who you want to look after your dependants or pets; and what, if any, specific funeral instructions you have.
We have a leaflet called Your step by step guide to making a will that you can download, which has a useful checklist of what to include in a will.
Meeting with a solicitor
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When you meet with your solicitor it will help to take your completed lists of what you have to leave, who you want to include in your will and the names of your executors and guardians for your children.
After your initial meeting with a solicitor, you should arrange a follow-up appointment to check that your will has been drafted according to your wishes. Once you’re happy with it, it will need to be witnessed and signed.
I’ve tried to set my affairs in order so that whoever tries to look after my estate will have the easiest passage imaginable.
It’s important to keep your will updated to reflect major changes in your life. For example, if you’ve had children or grandchildren, or met a new partner, you might need to update it to include them. Or you may need to update it to take account of changes in your finances.
Leave your up-to-date will somewhere it will be secure and easily found - with your solicitor, for example. Keep a copy for yourself and make sure your executors know where it is.