A will is the only way to ensure that your estate goes to your loved ones, but despite its importance, 54% of UK adults don’t have a will . Worse yet, 5.4 million people don’t even know how to write one, putting them at risk of dying ‘intestate.’ In this event, a probate court will be responsible for deciding how an estate is distributed.
The best way to avoid intestacy is by creating a valid will. It may seem daunting, but using a local will writing company or an online will writing service can make the task far more straightforward.
To help, we cover the main steps involved in making a will:
- 1 Step 1: Valuing Your Estate
- 2 Step 2: Deciding how you Want to Distribute Your Estate
- 3 Step 3: Deciding Whether to Leave a Donation to a Charity
- 4 Step 4: Choosing Your Executors
- 5 Step 5: Writing Your Will
- 6 Step 6: Signing Your Will
- 7 Step 7: Storing Your Will
- 8 Legacy Wills & Probate
Step 1: Valuing Your Estate
One of the first questions to ask yourself is: ‘what is the value of my estate?’ Most people often don’t consider this question until they start writing their will, leaving them wondering what their estate consists of and how they value it.
Valuing your estate is much easier than you might think – all you need to do is to subtract your liabilities from the total value of your assets to get an estate valuation. To do this, produce a list of all your assets, which can include:
- Your home and any other property that is yours
- Savings and any of your building society accounts
- Insurance, such as life insurance
- Pension funds
- Investments, such as stocks and shares
- Cars and any other motor vehicles
- Jewellery, antiques, and other personal belongings
- Furniture and other household items
It is worth getting your assets valued often as the value of them can change over time. If the estimated value of any of your possessions is over £500, HMRC recommends that you get a professional to value them. However, assets below this figure can be valued based on the prices of similar second-hand items.
Liabilities (i.e. debts) can include your mortgage, credit card balance, bank overdrafts, and any loans that have not been paid off. Any debts left outstanding will be the executor’s responsibility to pay.
Step 2: Deciding how you Want to Distribute Your Estate
Once you have valued your estate, you then need to make it totally clear how you want your estate to be divided.
You should consider who will benefit from your will, whether you want to give any specific gifts to certain people, where the residue of the estate (any properly or money left over once funeral costs, administrative expenses, legacies, and taxes have been accounted for) should go, and what should happen if any of your beneficiaries die before you do.
Step 3: Deciding Whether to Leave a Donation to a Charity
This step is optional, but you can add charities and non-profit organisations as beneficiaries in your will. You can leave many kinds of assets to them, including real estate, personal property, part of your life insurance policy, or investments.
If you do plan to leave a donation to charity, make sure that you don’t leave out its full name, address, and registered charity number. Incorrect information may leave your chosen charity unable to receive your gift.
Step 4: Choosing Your Executors
Executors are responsible for distributing your estate, so it is crucial to choose your executors carefully. It will be up to them to follow the instructions set out in your will and to find fair solutions to any disputes.
It is also helpful to choose an executor who is good at paperwork and can manage legal issues, but this is not essential.
Whoever you have in mind, make sure to appoint more than one executor, or to have a replacement executor – this can be anyone you trust, but people usually pick a friend, relative, or solicitor. Choosing more than one executor means that if one dies, the surviving executor(s) can deal with your estate.
Step 5: Writing Your Will
There are several ways to write your will:
Solicitors and lawyers who specialise in wills are a good choice if:
- Your family circumstances are complicated (e.g., you have former partners or children from another marriage)
- You have a family member with special needs
- You have assets that may be subject to complex rules, such as owning a property overseas.
Using a solicitor or lawyer tends to be more expensive than other will writing options, but you will have peace of mind in knowing that a qualified person is dealing with your estate. Lawyers’ ought to be licensed with a relevant professional body, such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority or Law Society.
Professional Will Writing Services
Professional will writers are an ideal choice if your circumstances are relatively straightforward, as they are usually cheaper than using a lawyer.
To ensure that you are using the services of a qualified individual, choose someone who is a member of the Institute of Professional Will Writers.
Online Will Writing Services
Similarly, online will writers are a good choice for those who don’t want to pay for a solicitor but who want to still benefit from professional guidance.
Again, make sure that the local will writing services you are considering are authorised and regulated.
Some charities will provide free will-drafting services to encourage will writing and charitable legacies. This is a good option if there is a particular charity you favour.
Certain banks offer will-writing services and advice about estate planning. However, they often charge high fees, so make sure to contact your local branch first to book an appointment.
Make your own will
You can make your own will, so long as you know how to write and sign it correctly. If you decide to go down this route, it is best to seek advice on how to write a legal valid will.
Step 6: Signing Your Will
The next step is to sign your will in the company of two independent witnesses. These witnesses must also sign it in your presence.
It is worth choosing someone who is not related to you to reduce the possibility of any disputes or accusations from occurring. For this reason, the witnesses should not be your beneficiaries or executors.
Step 7: Storing Your Will
The final step is to leave your will with a solicitor, bank, Probate Service, or at a secure location in your home.
Legacy Wills & Probate offers secure will storage space, so you can be sure that your will is not at risk of being damaged or lost.
Legacy Wills & Probate
Legacy Wills & Probate is a top provider of online will writing services, in addition to offering long-term professional support and legal advice. For more information on any of our will writing services, don’t hesitate to get in touch today.
Call our friendly team on 0333 344 4325 or email us directly at email@example.com. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.