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The Complete Guide to Writing a Will

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Writing a legally valid will is one of the most important things you can do to secure your family’s future. 

A will documents what should happen to your estate – your possessions, property and finances – in the event of your passing. Without clear instructions in a will, your estate could be divided incorrectly among unintended beneficiaries. This can lead to lengthy disputes and resentment among relatives at a difficult time when dealing with probate property

Having a will allows you to rest assured that your wishes will be respected, providing a sense of security and peace of mind. 

In the guide below, we will walk through the critical steps of writing a comprehensive will – including what a will is, why having one is so essential, and vital considerations throughout the process.

What is a will?

A will is a legal document communicating a person’s final wishes about their assets and dependents. It details how a person’s estate—money, property, and possessions—should be distributed after death. 

A will typically name an executor, someone who will ensure the estate is divided according to the will’s instructions. It may also name guardians for any dependent children. 

Without a will, a person’s estate is divided according to intestacy rules, which are the legal rules that determine how a person’s property is distributed if they die without a valid will. 

This could mean assets go to unintended beneficiaries and disputes arise between relatives. Having a correctly drafted will avoid these and provide peace of mind that loved ones will be provided for. 

10 Reasons why it is essential to have a will

There are lots of important reasons why writing a will is advisable. We’ve outlined ten of these below:

1. You decide how your estate is shared out

With a will, you can assert your control over your estate, deciding who inherits, how much they receive, and when. This includes the power to leave specific items to certain people. Without one, assets may not go to your intended beneficiaries. By writing a will, you are taking charge of your estate, ensuring your wishes are respected, and empowering yourself. 

2. You appoint guardians for your children.

If you have children under the age of 18, you can nominate legal guardians in your will to look after them in the event of your death. This ensures your children are cared for by people you trust. 

3. You can support charities.

Through a will, you can leave gifts of money or possessions to charitable causes you wish to support. This is a meaningful way to give to organisations close to your heart. 

4. It speeds up the administration process.

With a will in place, the administration of your estate is more straightforward and swifter. The executor will have clear instructions to follow, avoiding lengthy delays. 

5. You can reduce inheritance tax.

Careful estate planning in your will can help reduce potential inheritance tax liabilities. Your solicitor can advise you on schemes like trusts. 

6. It brings peace of mind.

Knowing your will accurately reflects your wishes brings a profound sense of comfort, assuring that loved ones will be provided for in your absence. Appointing an executor also alleviates the burden on grieving relatives, providing them with peace of mind. 

7. It avoids disputes between family members

Without clear wishes, grieving relatives can argue about how your estate should be distributed. A legally binding agreement will minimise the potential for conflict. 

8. It reflects your values.

A will allows you to divide your estate in a way that is consistent with your values. You may wish to leave more to charities or certain family members based on relationships and needs. 

9. Your business is protected.

If you own a business, your will can give instructions to help ensure its smooth continuity after your death. You may wish to leave it to a trusted family member or sell it and divide the proceeds. 

10. It saves money long-term.

Having a solicitor draft your will costs initially prevents more significant expenses later if your estate is contested. Doing it properly saves money for your family. 

The steps involved with writing a will

Writing a legally valid will involves several steps:

1. Choose executors 

Executors are responsible for enacting the terms of your will. Typically, one or two executors are appointed, plus a reserve executor. They should be trustworthy and capable individuals over the age of 18. Popular choices include a spouse, adult children, close relatives, friends, or solicitors. 

2. Decide beneficiaries

Make a list of all beneficiaries who will inherit your estate and what they will receive. Be as specific as possible regarding property, money, shares, cars, etc. State clearly if they are to benefit only if other beneficiaries have died. 

3. Choose guardians

If you have children under 18, include legal guardians to care for them if you or your partner pass away. Talk to the guardians before naming them in the will. 

4. Pick witnesses

When you sign the will, two adult independent witnesses must also sign it to validate it. Witnesses should not be beneficiaries or the partners of beneficiaries. 

5. Review regularly

A will should be revisited whenever a significant life event occurs, such as a birth, death, marriage, divorce in the family, or a substantial purchase like a new property. These events can significantly impact your estate planning, so it’s important to keep your will up to date. 

6. Store safely 

Keep the original signed copy secure, like a fireproof box at home or with a solicitor. Executors should know the location and have access if needed. 

Key things to consider when writing your will

There are some critical factors to consider when planning what to include in your will.

Minimise inheritance tax

Seek ways to minimise inheritance tax, like leaving gifts to charities or trusts. Your solicitor can advise you on tax-efficient estate planning. 

Plan for asset distribution

Carefully consider which assets should go to whom, considering factors like a beneficiary’s age, relationship status and existing wealth. Make sure beneficiaries are ready to manage significant assets. 

Plan for residuary

If a primary beneficiary dies before you, include a plan for who should receive their share – this is known as a residuary clause. 

Assign outstanding debt payments

Provide clear instructions for how any outstanding debts, bills, taxes, or fees should be paid from your estate. This will avoid disputes later. 

Preferred burial procedures

Using your will to state preferred burial or cremation, religious customs and other funeral instructions can provide helpful guidance for loved ones. 

Assign digital asset handling

Give direction on how digital assets, which are your online accounts and files, like social media accounts, email accounts, and websites, should be managed after death. Allow your executor access to these assets or nominate a digital legacy contact, someone who can manage your digital presence after you’re gone. 

In addition to leaving an inheritance for loved ones, you may want to leave gifts for friends or organisations. Your solicitor, a legal professional who specializes in will writing and estate planning, can help structure these in the most tax-efficient way. 

Review and update your will whenever the status of beneficiaries changes—for example, marriages, divorces, new children, or grandchildren. 

Should I get expert support when writing my will? 

Absolutely. Seeking professional advice ensures that your will is legally sound and reflects your wishes accurately. It provides a sense of reassurance and guidance, making the process less daunting.

Appointing a solicitor is recommended to ensure your will is legally valid and reflects your wishes accurately. 

A solicitor can assist with:

  • Advise on inheritance tax rules and how to minimise liabilities
  • Ensure correct legal language is used to avoid confusion
  • Identify issues with executors or beneficiaries
  • Help balance complex family dynamics
  • Answer questions and explain legal implications 
  • Keep your will safe and up-to-date
  • Act as executor if required

Although do-it-yourself will kits are cheaper, the small upfront saving may risk complications further down the line if a will is found invalid or open to challenge. An expert solicitor can provide appropriate legal counsel and peace of mind that your estate will be managed as intended. If you’d like to sell your house to a cash house buyer, get in touch today.

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