Top 10 tips for a succesful Will

Many of us never get round to making a will – it’s estimated that one in three people die without ever having made a will. Not having a will can cause problems and financial worry for your loved ones. Take the time to write a will and make provisions to meet the future financial needs of your loved ones.

If you die without a will – called dying intestate – the intestacy rules determine who inherits what, which means your loved ones could miss out and a large chunk of your estate could go to the taxman. If you live with a partner but are not married or in a civil partnership, and do not leave a will, then your assets will pass automatically to the closest blood relatives – often children, parents or siblings. Whether you are single, cohabiting, married or divorced, you need a will to ensure that your assets will be distributed in accordance with your wishes.

Choose who draws up your will wisely.Seek professional legal advice and use a qualified and regulated solicitor covered by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. As well as ensuring your final wishes are met, solicitors can advise you on how to make the most of the available inheritance tax allowance and can assist you in establishing trusts to manage the deferral of any inheritance of any beneficiaries. Also, if the firm stops trading, you are automatically covered and your will will be transferred to another solicitor. Whilst DIY kits are available, the process is full of pitfalls and errors are easy to make which could result in your will being invalid, your beneficiaries being subject to large tax bills or your estate not being left to your chosen beneficiaries.

Executors are responsible for exercising your estate in accordance with your instructions after you have died. It can be a demanding task and you should always ask people if they mind taking on this role. If you are married, you will probably want your spouse to be your executor, but don't appoint them as your sole executor. If you both died together then neither of you would have a living executor. Always appoint a default or substitute executor in the event that your spouse is unable to act on your behalf.

Many people don’t make a will because they can’t agree what would happen to their children if both parents die. If you are the last living parent and you die leaving a child under age 18, a guardian will be appointed by the court if you haven’t made a will or haven’t said who this should be in your will. Appointing a guardian will ensure that your wishes are followed when it comes to your children.
Unmarried couples should make sure they appoint each other as guardians in their wills.

Planning who will inherit what and when, where children are concerned, helps prevent the many family feuds that follow a person’s death. By making it clear what your wishes are, you make it easier for those left behind to deal with the affects of your death.

To validate your will, you must have two independent witnesses, over the age of 18, watch you sign the will. They must also sign the will, though they don’t need to read it. As a beneficiary cannot legally benefit from a will they have witnessed, your witnesses should
always be people who will not inherit anything under the will. Any gift made in a will to a witness will be void, though it will not affect the validity of the rest of the will.

Decide how to look after your will and let your executor know where it is. Always make sure your executor can get to your will without probate. Never store it in a bank safety deposit box as the bank can’t open the box until the executor gets probate (permission from the court to administer your affairs) and probate can’t be granted without the will. You can leave it with your
solicitor (you should also get a copy).

If there is a change to your circumstances e.g. marriage, divorce, separation, children, a property or other expensive purchase, you should review your will, as changes to your circumstances can make all or part of your will invalid or inadequate.

For complete peace of mind, use a solicitor that meets the highest standards of expertise and client service in wills and inheritance law. The Law Society’s Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS) is the recognised quality mark for legal experts in drafting wills and dealing with your estate after your death. Look out for this quality mark when searching for a solicitor. While we have made every effort to provide accurate information, the law is always changing and affects each person differently. This information is not a substitute for specific advice about your situation and we will not be liable to you if you rely on this information.

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Your guide to
Making a will
Who should make a will?
If you care about what happens to your property
after you die, you should make a will. Without
one, the state directs who inherits, so your
friends, favourite charities and relatives may get
nothing. Having a will also makes it easier for
your loved ones when you die.
It is particularly important to make a will if you
are not married or are not in a registered civil
partnership (a legal arrangement that gives
same-sex partners the same status as a married
couple). This is because the law does not
automatically recognise cohabitants (partners
who live together) as having the same rights as
husbands, wives and civil partners. As a result,
even if you’ve lived together for many years, your
cohabitant may be left with nothing if you have
not made a will.
A will is also vital if you have children or
dependants who may not be able to care
for themselves. Without a will there could be
uncertainty about who will look after or provide
for them when you die.
Your solicitor can also advise you on how
inheritance tax may affect what you own.
You should also consider taking legal
advice about making a will if:
• several people could make a claim on your
estate when you die because they depend on
you financially;
• you want to include a trust in your will
(perhaps to provide for young children or a
disabled person, save tax, or simply protect
your assets in some way after you die);
• your permanent home is not in the UK or you
are not a British citizen;
• you live here but you have overseas property;
• you own all or part of a business.
After you have had a will drawn up, some
changes to your circumstances – for example,
marriage, civil partnership, separation, divorce
or if your civil partnership is dissolved (legally
ended) – can make all or part of that will invalid.
You should review your will regularly, to reflect
any major life changes. A solicitor can tell you
what changes may make it necessary to update
your will.
Using a solicitor
Making a will can be a complex process and
there are various legal formalities you need
to follow to make sure that your will is valid.
Without the help of an expert, there’s a real risk
you could make a mistake, which could cause
problems for your family and friends after your
Solicitors are regulated and have the necessary
qualifications and training to address the often
complex issues associated with drafting a will
and can help ensure your estate is left to those
you wish to inherit after your death.
Finding a solicitor
You might want to look for a solicitor who
is a member of the Law Society’s Wills and
Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS). By choosing
a member of this scheme you can be sure that
your solicitor meets the high standards set by
the Law Society. You can find details about
WIQS members at
or you can call 020 7320 5650.
Search for a WIQS accredited practice
Use our Find a Solicitor website to
find a Law Society accredited wills and
inheritance practice near you.
Go to:
What your solicitor will need
to know
If you have appointed a solicitor to write your
will, they will need the following details from you.
What you own
Details of everything you own, including
property, cars, personal valuables, stocks and
shares, bank accounts, insurance policies, any
businesses you own, and pensions.
Who gets what?
Who do you want to leave these assets to? How
do you want to divide your estate between your
loved ones, friends or charities? Are there any
conditions you want to attach to these gifts
(for example, that young people must reach a
particular age before they are paid money you
have left them)?
Family and other beneficiaries
Details of your family and status. Are you
divorced or has your civil partnership been
dissolved? Have you remarried or entered
into a new civil partnership? Or are you living
with someone without being married to them
or being their civil partner? Do you have any
children or any other dependants?
Anyone who depends on you financially can ask
a court to review your will if they feel you have
not provided properly for them. If you give your
solicitor relevant details, they can tell you about
any possible legal pitfalls.
If you have any children who may be under 18
when you die, you may need to name someone
as their legal guardian.
Other wishes
Do you have any particular wishes for your
funeral? Do you want to be buried or cremated?
Are there any other instructions? For example,
if you want to be an organ donor this can be
included in your will, although it won’t be legally
binding. However, it is also a good idea to record
your wishes on the organ-donor register, or to
carry an organ-donor card.
Executors of your will
You must also name the people you want to
appoint as executors of your will – the people
who carry out the administration of your will
after your death. These could be friends or
family members, or a professional such as your
solicitor. Ideally, you should choose someone
who is familiar with financial matters. Make sure
you ask your executors whether they are happy
to take on this duty as there are long-term
responsibilities involved.
Signing the will
Once the will has been drawn up it is not
effective until it has been signed. There are
several rules affecting the signature process
which, if not followed correctly, will make your
will invalid. For example, witnesses and their
husbands, wives or civil partners cannot benefit
under the will.
What your solicitor will need to know
What you own
Who gets what?
and other
of your will
Where to keep the will
It is important to keep your will in a safe place
and tell your executors, a close friend or relative
where it is. People often ask their solicitor to
store their wills for them, which may incur a
small fee.
Keeping your will up to date
You should review your will at least every five
years and after any major life change such as
getting separated, married or divorced, having
a child or moving house. It is best to deal with
any major changes by getting a new will drawn
up. But it is also possible to make minor changes
(codicils) to your existing will. In both cases it is
best to consult a solicitor.
Charges for drawing up a will can vary between
solicitors and can depend on how complicated
your will may be.
Before you decide who to use, you can check
with a few solicitors to find out how much they
charge. But remember that cost should not be
the only consideration. It is equally important to
find a solicitor who is approachable and whose
advice you understand.
The Law Society 113 Chancery Lane London WC2A 1PL @TheLawSociety
While we have made every effort to provide accurate information, the law is always changing and affects each person differently.
This leaflet is no substitute for specific advice about you personally and we will not be liable to you if you rely on this leaflet.
© 2016 The Law Society. All rights reserved. May 2016. Designed by DTW
We can make the information in this leaflet available in other formats on request.
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