Making a will in Northern Ireland
Whatever your age, having an up-to-date and valid will is important.
The web pages in this section are about the ways people can plan ahead if they live in Northern Ireland. We have other information about planning ahead in England and Wales, and in Scotland.
Adrienne Betteley, a Macmillan Cancer Support Programme Manager and Diane Miller, discuss why making a will is important.
To talk to someone about your questions and concerns, you can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00
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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.
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 their estate aren’t the people they would have chosen.
Having 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 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 Northern Ireland.
Things to think about when making your will Back to top
It will help to think about the following things before you meet with a solicitor.
The value of your estate and what you have to leave in your will
You may want to start by making a list of everything you own (your assets) and how much they’re worth. This might include your house, car, jewellery, bank and building society accounts, savings accounts and life insurance policies.
Next, make a list of everything you owe (your 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. You can find out more if you are thinking about leaving a donation to Macmillan in your will.
Other important information to include in your will
You can also include who you want to appoint as your executors (people responsible for settling your affairs) and who you want to look after your dependants. If your dependants are children under the age of 18, you can include in your will who you want to take care of them.
The person or people you choose to do this are known as their legal guardian(s). Sometimes guardianship arrangements for children can be complicated if you’re a parent who’s separated or divorced from your spouse or you’re unmarried. In this situation, it’s best to take advice from a solicitor.
If you have pets, you can give details of who you want to look after them. We have more information about pet care when you have cancer.
Your will can also include any specific funeral instructions you have.
You can get more information about making a will from organisations such as Age NI and the Law Society of Northern Ireland.
Meeting with a solicitor Back to top
When you meet with your solicitor it will help to take your completed lists of what you have to leave and who you want to include in your will, and the names of your executors and any 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.
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, for example with your solicitor. Keep a copy for yourself and make sure your executors know where it is.
An example of writing a will - Maeve's story
Writing a will was always something I’d thought about, especially now that I have two children aged 10 and 8. When I tried to discuss it with my husband, he never wanted to know. He always said, “Not now,” or, “We’ll do it sometime”.
Then one Sunday I got a phone call to say that my cousin, who was 43, was rushed to hospital as he felt very unwell. Within a matter of hours he was on a life support machine and within a few days he had died. It all started with a headache, but he was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder and this was the cause of his death. This event made me stop and think how quickly things change in our lives, which we have absolutely no control over. I thought of my own children and what I would want for them if something happened to me.
Following this, I made an appointment with one of our local solicitors and then told my husband he was coming along to make sure we had a will in place. This process was made so easy for us and the solicitor explained everything. We kept the will simple and straightforward. When it was drafted, we then went back to the solicitor’s office to agree to the final will and sign it.
I’ll always remember walking out of the office and the relief I felt. I am nowassured that I know my children will be looked after, and this offers me great comfort.