You’re ready to make a will, ensuring that your estate is dealt with according to your wishes and your loved ones are protected when you’re no longer here. But where do you start and how exactly do you go about making one?
What to include in your will
The first step is to work out the value of your estate. Make a list of all of your assets, such as your home, other properties you may own, vehicles, savings, investments, pension funds, insurance policies, personal belongings (such as jewellery) and digital assets.
Decide how you want your estate to be divided
You need to decide who you want the beneficiaries of your estate to be and how you want them to benefit from your will, such as with money or specific gifts. Consider what should happen if any of your beneficiaries die before you do. You should also think about whether you want to leave a gift to a charity. If so, be sure to include their correct details in your will to ensure your gift goes to the right one.
Leave specific instructions
As well as deciding how your estate is to be divided, there are other instructions you may need to leave in your will. If your children are under 18, you need to confirm who is to look after them and stipulate what other arrangements you’ve made for them, such as setting up a trust. You can also specify who is to look after your pets. You may have specific funeral arrangements and these need to be detailed in your will too.
Name your executors
Executors are the people you appoint to carry out your wishes as described in your will. It’s recommended to name two executors in case one of them is unable to fulfil their role when needed. Being an executor is a lot of responsibility so you need to ask the people you have in mind if they are willing to take on this role. Family members or friends are often chosen to be executors but you can ask your solicitor, accountant, bank or other professional body to act as your executor if you prefer.
Write your will
If your will is going to be straightforward, you can write it yourself. If you do this, however, make sure your solicitor checks it afterwards to ensure there are no mistakes. This is essential because your executors will have to deal with any mistakes that have been made and there may be legal costs involved, which will reduce the value of your estate. You also risk your will being invalidated due to mistakes so it’s imperative to ensure it’s accurate.
If your estate and wishes are more complex, it’s best to use the services of a professional to write your will. This can include a solicitor, an accountant, a protection consultant or possibly your bank if they offer this service.
Once your will has been written, you need to sign it in the presence of two independent witnesses, which means they’re not beneficiaries of your will. Once your will has been signed and witnessed, it becomes legally valid. Now you need to keep it somewhere safe, such as at home or with your solicitor or bank. You may prefer to use a company that offers a storage service for wills or to lodge it with the government’s Probate Service (in England and Wales). You need to let your executors know where your will is stored so that they know where to find it in the event of your death.
Keep your will updated
Circumstances change and it’s important to ensure your will is kept up to date to account for this. It’s recommended to review your will every 5 years as well as after any important changes in your life. For example, you may get married (which automatically cancels any previous will you’ve made), have a child or move to a new house in Bexleyheath. You may have been married when you wrote the original will but have separated or divorced further down the line.
Add a codicil
You cannot alter your original will once it’s been signed and witnessed. Instead, for small amendments, you can add a codicil, which is an official supplement that’s added to your will. This needs to be signed and witnessed, just like your original will, although you can have different witnesses. There’s no limit to the number of codicils you can add.
Make a new will
If you need to account for a major change, you’ll have to make a new will. This must state that it revokes your previous will and codicils.
Get help with making your will
You may be ready to make a will but feel overwhelmed at the thought of it. There’s really no need because a mortgage and protection consultant can assist you with the preparation and help you to draft a will before ensuring it is legally valid. No matter how complex your affairs are, speak with a specialist consultant in Kent, London or Edinburgh to get a legal will in place as quickly and easily as possible.