Making a will

Making a will

One example of how people make plans in advance is by making a will. A will is the only way to make sure that your wishes are carried out after you die and that your family and friends are provided for in the way you want.

A will includes who you would like your property, personal possessions and monies to go to after you die. It may also include who you’d like to look after any dependants you have and any specific funeral arrangements you want.

Why make a will?

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 the estate aren’t the people you would have chosen.

Involving a solicitor

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.

Depending on where you live in the UK, the rules that apply to wills will be slightly different. Your solicitor will explain how these rules might affect your will.

Macmillan has a discounted will writing service. We’ve hand-picked a choice of will writing organisations you can trust and that can offer you a will at a reduced price. You don’t have to leave a gift to Macmillan to get a discount. The organisations cover England, Scotland and Wales.

If you need help to find a local solicitor, you can contact the Law Society of England and Wales, the Law Society of Scotland or the Law Society of Northern Ireland

Things to think about when making your will

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, or under 16 in Scotland); 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

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.

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.

Update your will to reflect major life changes

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, marriage or civil partnership will revoke (cancel) an existing will, unless it specifically states it takes a forthcoming wedding or civil partnership into account. So if you have married or become a civil partner since making your will, you may need to make a new one.

In Scotland, the rules are slightly different. Marriage or civil partnership does not revoke an existing will.

Divorce or dissolution will also impact on any existing will (but will not revoke it). In this case, you should review your will. If you’ve had children or grandchildren, or met a new partner, you may need to update it to include them. Not including your children may revoke a Scottish will. You may also need to change your will to take account of changes in your finances.