How to make a Will
On this page:Finding professional help
What to include in your Will
About your witnesses
Signing your Will
Appointing an executor
Keeping your Will up to date
Looking after your Will
A professional will have up to date knowledge of all relevant legislation, meaning less risk of misunderstandings or costly disputes. Solicitors or banks often offer Will writing services.
It pays to be as clear as possible about what you want to include before discussing this with your chosen Will writer as this will help to minimise costs.
Here's a useful checklist:
- Your assets - your Will writer will help you work out the approximate value of everything you own.
- Your beneficiaries - names and addresses of the people or charities that you'd like to benefit.
- Your children - names and addresses of the people/guardians you'd like to look after any children under 18.
- Your executor(s) - names and addresses of the people you'd like to be responsible for carrying out your wishes (see below)
- Your trustee(s) - if you'd like to put any money in trust for a child or other loved one, your Will should include the names of those you would you'd like to act as trustees if they aren't the executors.
- Funeral wishes - if you'd prefer a cremation or burial, or a specific venue.
Click here for more information on Trusts
In order to be valid, any Will must be:
- Made in writing by a person aged 18 or over and of 'sound mind'.
- Made voluntarily, without pressure.
- Signed and dated by the person making the Will, in the presence of two witnesses who must also sign the Will.
Witnesses must be independent, so they cannot receive anything in the Will, or be related to a beneficiary.
In addition, a witness' spouse or civil partner should not benefit from the Will.
Before signing your Will, you should ensure that you have read and understood it.
You and your witnesses should remain together in the same room throughout the signing process. However, your witnesses do not need to know the contents of your Will; they are simply witnessing your signature.
When you are ready, you should sign the Will on the last page using a blue or black pen, and date it using the same pen and the format 'the 6th day of June 2010'.
Once you have signed, the first witness should also sign the Will using their usual signature and print their name address and occupation. The second witness should follow suit.
Your Will becomes valid as soon as these steps are complete.
You will need an executor to deal with your estate. This means paying any debts, taxes and funeral costs, and distributing your assets in line with the wishes set out in your Will.
An executor may be:
- A professional executor, such as a Trust Corporation, bank, or a specialist Will writing company.
- A relative.
If you'd like to appoint a friend or relative you should talk to them first to make sure they are comfortable with the responsibility involved. If you appoint a professional, they will work alongside your friend/relative to guide them - which is the most common way to ensure everything is taken care of, and can take the worry away from those dear to you.
Once you have a Will, you should review it regularly and make sure that any major changes are documented. For example:
- If you get married
- If you separate or get divorced
- If you have a child - or a grandchild
- If you move house
If you don't do this, your Will may become invalid. It's always best to consult a professional when updating your Will to make sure it is still accurate and reliable.
It makes sense to keep your Will in a safe place - and to tell your executor(s) where to find it. If you keep your Will at home, don't attach a paper clip, as the Court may think the mark left by the clip was an attached document showing changes to the Will.
If you don't wish to keep your Will at home, it's best that it's kept by a professional, ideally in a fireproof safe.
You may qualify for free legal help if you meet the financial criteria, and:
If you are 70+.
If you have a disability.
If you have a child with a disability and want to provide for them.
If you are a single parent and wish to appoint a guardian.
In England and Wales this help is known as Legal Aid.
In Northern Ireland this help is available under the green form scheme.