Writ­ing a Will in the UK? - Don't Miss These Steps

Writing a will in the UK
Catrin, UK Solicitor
16/02/2024 ● 3 minutes
Writ­ing a will is an im­port­ant part of estate plan­ning, but it can be a daunt­ing task.

Why do you need a Will? Can you write your own will from scratch? You may have heard that writ­ing a Will is im­port­ant, but do you know why?

Before you write your own will, make sure that you fa­mil­i­ar­ise 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.

In this art­icle, we'll go through all the basics of will writ­ing, what a writ­ten will in­cludes and also ex­plain where to store your Will so that your heirs will find it when the moment comes.

The Im­port­ance of Writ­ing a Will

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 in UK. This may not be in line with your wishes, and it could lead to con­flict among your family mem­bers.

Be­ne­fits of a Writ­ten Will

There are many be­ne­fits for writ­ing a Last Will. Below we listed four the most im­port­ant factors.

  1. A Last Will 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.
  2. A Last Will 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.
  3. A Last Will can Min­im­ize Taxes. A Will can help to reduce the amount of estate taxes that your heirs have to pay.
  4. A Last Will can Avoid Con­flict. A well-writ­ten Will can help to pre­vent dis­putes among your family mem­bers after you die.

💡 Did you know that only 44% of UK adults have writ­ten a Will? However, among those over 55 years old, 66% have a Will.

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Seek Pro­fes­sion­al Help when Writ­ing a Last Will in the UK

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

It's pos­sible to write your own Last 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, min­im­ise tax, and plan for un­ex­pec­ted events.

⚠️ Ex­er­cise cau­tion when con­sid­er­ing free Will tem­plates that you have found on the In­ternet. A basic tem­plate might not fulfil your wishes. An un­clear Last Will can cause un­ne­ces­sary dis­putes among the re­l­at­ives

Can I Write My Own Will?

Yes, you can indeed write your Will without meet­ing with a so­li­citor, for in­stance, by util­ising online legal ser­vices like Aatos.

Aatos provides guid­ance to help you create a leg­ally valid Will from the com­fort of your own home. The ser­vice will ensure that your Will meets all legal re­quire­ments and ac­cur­ately re­flects your wishes.

Online ser­vices like Aatos offer both con­veni­ence and po­ten­tial sav­ings. However, for those with more com­plex es­tates or in need of spe­cif­ic legal advice, Aatos's so­li­cit­ors are avail­able to assist through a free chat ser­vice, en­sur­ing that even more in­tric­ate con­cerns can be ad­dressed ef­fect­ively.

Writ­ing a Will en­tirely on your own from scratch is not ad­vis­able for sev­er­al reas­ons.

  1. A Will must comply with spe­cif­ic legal re­quire­ments to be valid, and these re­quire­ments can vary by jur­is­dic­tion. Without legal ex­pert­ise, you may miss es­sen­tial legal form­al­it­ies, such as proper wit­ness sig­na­tures or the cor­rect de­clar­a­tion lan­guage, which could render the Will in­valid.
  2. The lan­guage used in Wills needs to be pre­cise and un­am­bigu­ous. In­ac­cur­ate lan­guage can lead to dis­putes among be­ne­fi­ciar­ies, po­ten­tially lead­ing to lengthy and costly legal battles.
  3. A self-writ­ten Will might not ad­equately ad­dress com­plex issues such as the dis­tri­bu­tion of di­git­al assets, guard­i­an­ship of minors, or tax im­plic­a­tions, which could lead to un­in­tended con­sequences for the estate and its be­ne­fi­ciar­ies.

Using a legal ser­vice, such as Aatos, en­sures that your Will is leg­ally robust, re­flects your wishes ac­cur­ately, and con­siders all rel­ev­ant legal and fin­an­cial as­pects.

A Writ­ten Will: Dif­fer­ent Types of Wills Exist

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.

Three of the Most Common Types of Last Wills:

  • Simple Will: 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: 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: 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.

💡 Dis­cre­tion­ary Trust Will gives the heirs a cer­tain flex­ib­il­ity on how your estate can be handled after you die.

Make Your Wishes Clear in Your Last 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 pri­or­it­ise 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 or­gan­is­a­tions or causes they sup­port, re­du­cing the amount left to family mem­bers.

How to Write Your Own Will?

Be aware if you are writ­ing a Last Will on your own that un­clear Will can Lead to Legal Chal­lenges. 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 min­im­ise the risk of your will being con­tested in the future.

Read more: Con­test­ing a Will in the UK

A Writ­ten Will Re­quires Wit­nesses to Be Valid

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.

There are a few things to keep in mind when choos­ing wit­nesses for your Will.

Cri­ter­ia for the Wit­nesses

  • Must be over the age of 18 and of sound mind
  • Cannot be be­ne­fi­ciar­ies of your Will or their spouses or part­ners
  • 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 Stor­age of a Writ­ten Will

Once you have writ­ten your Last Will, it is im­port­ant to store your Will in a safe and secure place where it can be easily found after your death.

Places to Store a Last Will

  • 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.

💡The most common place to store a Will in the UK is at Home. 47% of UK adults with a writ­ten Will store their Last Will at home.

Read more: Suc­cess Rate of Con­test­ing a Will in the UK

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