Writ­ing a will in the UK? - Don't miss these steps

26/09/2023 ● 6 minutes
Writ­ing a will is an im­port­ant part of estate plan­ning, but it can be a daunt­ing task. This art­icle will walk you through the pro­cess of writ­ing a will in the UK, in­clud­ing the dif­fer­ent types of wills avail­able, what to in­clude in your will, and how to get it wit­nessed and signed.

The im­port­ance of a will

Why do you need a will?

You may have heard that having a will is im­port­ant, but do you know why?

A will is a legal doc­u­ment that states how you want your assets to be dis­trib­uted after you die. It also allows you to ap­point an ex­ecut­or, who will be re­spons­ible for car­ry­ing out your wishes.

Without a will, your assets will be dis­trib­uted ac­cording to the in­test­acy laws of your state. This may not be in line with your wishes, and it could lead to con­flict among your family mem­bers.

Be­ne­fits of having a will

It en­sures that your final wishes are car­ried out. With a will, you can be sure that your assets will be dis­trib­uted to the people you want, in the way you want.

It pro­tects your loved ones. If you have minor chil­dren, a will can ap­point a guardi­an for them. You can also use a will to leave spe­cif­ic assets to your loved ones, such as your home or family heir­looms.

It can min­im­ize taxes. A will can help to reduce the amount of estate taxes that your heirs have to pay.

It can avoid con­flict. A well-writ­ten will can help to pre­vent dis­putes among your family mem­bers after you die.

In this art­icle, we'll dis­cuss how to create a will, the dif­fer­ent types of wills, and what to con­sider before making one. We'll also ex­plain where to store your will and other im­port­ant factors.

Seek pro­fes­sion­al help when writ­ing a will in the UK

Only adults over 18 and of sound mind can write a will in the UK.

It's pos­sible to write your own will, but it's best to get pro­fes­sion­al help to make sure it's leg­ally valid and cor­rect. Using a suit­able legal ser­vice will ensure that the doc­u­ment pre­cisely re­flects the test­ator's de­sires and com­plies with rel­ev­ant laws and reg­u­la­tions.

They can also help you ap­point an ex­ecut­or, dis­tribute your assets, min­im­ize tax, and plan for un­ex­pec­ted events.

Dif­fer­ent types of wills in the UK

There are dif­fer­ent types of wills to choose from, de­pend­ing on your needs. The best type of will for you de­pends on how com­plex your estate is, your family struc­ture, and your per­son­al pref­er­ences.

Here are three of the most common types of wills in the UK:

Simple will: This is the simplest type of will and is suit­able for people with un­com­plic­ated es­tates. It states who you want your assets to go to and names an ex­ecut­or to carry out your wishes. It may also name guard­i­ans for minor chil­dren.

Joint will: This is a single will for two people, such as spouses or part­ners. It states that when one person dies, their assets go to the other person. When both people have died, the assets are then dis­trib­uted to the be­ne­fi­ciar­ies named in the will.

Living will: This is not a tra­di­tion­al will, but it is a legal doc­u­ment that states your wishes for medical treat­ment and end-of-life care if you become in­ca­pa­cit­ated and cannot com­mu­nic­ate your wishes.

Make your wishes clear in your will

As the test­ator, you have the legal right to ex­clude almost anyone from your will or leave them a min­im­al in­her­it­ance. You can dis­tribute your assets as you see fit.

For ex­ample, you may have an es­tranged re­la­tion­ship with a family member and might choose not to in­clude them in your will. Al­tern­at­ively, you might choose to pri­or­it­ize heirs based on need rather than di­vid­ing assets equally. That means you may choose to in­clude a family member with fin­an­cial hard­ships in your will.

On the other hand, some in­di­vidu­als may decide to leave a sub­stan­tial por­tion of their estate to char­it­able or­gan­iz­a­tions or causes they sup­port, re­du­cing the amount left to family mem­bers.

Avoid mis­un­der­stand­ings

Whichever will you choose to write, it's es­sen­tial to be clear and spe­cif­ic to avoid mis­un­der­stand­ings or po­ten­tial legal chal­lenges.

If you intend to ex­clude a family member or limit their in­her­it­ance, con­sult a so­li­citor to ensure that your wishes are leg­ally ex­pressed. Prop­erly doc­u­ment­ing your in­ten­tions can help pre­vent dis­putes among sur­viv­ing family mem­bers and min­im­ize the risk of your will being con­tested in the future.

Why you need wit­nesses for your will

Having wit­nesses present when you sign your will is es­sen­tial to make it leg­ally valid. This is known as at­test­a­tion, and it provides in­de­pend­ent veri­fic­a­tion that the will is genu­ine and that you were of sound mind when you signed it.

The number of wit­nesses re­quired and spe­cif­ic wit­ness­ing rules vary de­pend­ing on the laws of your coun­try or state. In gen­er­al, most jur­is­dic­tions (in­clud­ing Eng­land) re­quire at least two wit­nesses to be present when you sign your will, and the wit­nesses must also sign the doc­u­ment.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choos­ing wit­nesses for your will:

  • The wit­nesses must be over the age of 18 and of sound mind.
  • The wit­nesses cannot be be­ne­fi­ciar­ies of your will or their spouses or part­ners.
  • The wit­nesses must be present at the same time when you sign the will, and they must all sign the doc­u­ment in your pres­ence.

It is im­port­ant to choose wit­nesses who you trust and who are re­li­able. They should also be able to un­der­stand the im­port­ance of their role and be will­ing to testi­fy in court if ne­ces­sary.

Ensure the last will’s safe­keep­ing

Once you have writ­ten your will, it is im­port­ant to store it in a safe and secure place where it can be easily found after your death. Here are a few op­tions to con­sider:

  • With your so­li­citor: Many so­li­cit­ors offer to store wills for their cli­ents, either free of charge or for a small fee. This can be a con­veni­ent option, as your so­li­citor will be able to ensure that your will is prop­erly ex­ecuted and stored in ac­cord­ance with the law.
  • With a trusted friend or family member: If you do not have a so­li­citor, or if you prefer to keep your will private, you can store it with a trusted friend or family member. However, it is im­port­ant to choose someone who is re­li­able and who un­der­stands the im­port­ance of the doc­u­ment.
  • In a safe de­posit box: Stor­ing your will in a safe de­posit box is an­oth­er option, but it is im­port­ant to note that your ex­ecut­or will need to have access to the box in order to re­trieve the will after your death.
  • At home: If you choose to store your will at home, be sure to keep it in a safe place where it is un­likely to be dam­aged or lost. You may want to con­sider stor­ing it in a fire­proof safe or lock­box.

No matter where you choose to store your will, it is im­port­ant to let your ex­ecut­or know where it is loc­ated. You may also want to con­sider giving them a copy of the will for their re­cords.

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