Have you considered writing a will but don’t know where to start?
Many people put off writing a will and do so for many reasons: they may not want the hassle, they may dislike the subject, or they might find it too complicated to begin. If you find yourself in that position, then this article is right for you.
In fact, we can provide a helpful online will template that makes it even easier to begin writing it – taking you one step closer to peace of mind about the future of your estate. You can create your free will document, download it as a PDF and then print it off to use.
This article answers some of the key questions you might have about the will creation process and will help you know how to write it correctly.
What is a Last Will and Testament?
Your Last Will and Testament is a legal document that clearly defines what happens to your possessions after you die. While there are different variations on the type of will you create (for example, a ‘joint will’), they all serve the same purpose.
To accompany your Last Will and Testament, you may also want to create a Letter of Wishes to help the people executing your will fulfil their role more effectively. This letter can outline the directions given in your will with more detail (though it is not legally binding).
Why do I need a Last Will and Testament?
While it is not essential to create one, it is strongly recommended so that you can distribute your property in the way you see fit. Without a will, you are considered ‘intestate’ and may not have your estate divided in a way you would have liked.
For example, serious problems arise if you have lived with your partner to whom you are neither married nor in a civil partnership. If you die, they will not automatically receive your possessions without a will, leading to further grief and legal complications. A Last Will and Testament ensures that your wishes are respected, and can prevent this kind of situation from occurring.
How do I write a Last Will and Testament?
There are numerous ways to write your will, so long as you follow the legal guidelines. It is possible for you to create the document yourself, or pay a solicitor to create one under your direction. One of the easiest ways to write a Last Will and Testament is to use a template, which ensures you follow all the correct guidelines and fill out all the relevant sections.
The template linked in this article already includes the essential sections for your will. Answer the questionnaire in the link to customise the template, then print, sign, and arrange a time to execute your will.
How do I make sure my will is valid?
Obviously, it’s very important that your will is legally valid. To do so, you must follow the legal guidelines for writing a will, and then sign it using the correct procedure.
The will you create must fit this criteria to be valid:
- The will must be in writing
- The will must state that it revokes all other wills
- You must sign the will
- You must be mentally well enough to create the will and understand it
- You must make the will voluntarily
- The signing must be witnessed by two people
If you take these steps, then you can have the peace of mind that your will is legally valid.
In addition to these guidelines, the will signing process must follow certain procedures. You must comprehensively sign the document with two witnesses present – and under specific legal guidelines. Here is the process to follow:
- Select your witnesses – First, you must choose your witnesses carefully, and within certain legal guidelines. Specifically:
- They cannot be a beneficiary of your will
- They cannot be the spouse of a beneficiary
2. Your declarations and signature – Next, you will begin a signing process which involves both you and your witnesses. In their presence, you must acknowledge the document as your Last Will and Testament and then go through the document, signing your initials at the bottom of each page. Finally, you must write your signature in full on the signing page.
3. Their declarations and signature – Similarly, your witnesses will need to acknowledge that they are observing your Last Will and Testament. Then, they will write their initials on each page next to yours, and then give their full signatures on the signing page.
4. The conclusion – You must notify your witnesses that they may be called upon to rely upon their signing in court.
How do I execute my Last Will and Testament?
To execute your will, you must first name someone as the ‘executor’ of your will within the document. This gives the person the power to apply for probate and then divide your estate in accordance with your will after you die.
You will need to ask the person’s permission first, and choose someone who is competent to deal with the legal procedures involved. Some people choose to pay a solicitor to execute their will (especially if it is complex), other people choose a couple of executors in case one is not able to fulfil their role.
After a person dies, their executor follows a process to execute the will, including:
1. Checking the will & making arrangements
The executor will check the details of the will so that they follow it correctly. At first, this includes looking for any funeral plans and executing these in accordance with the deceased person’s wishes.
2. Estate valuation
The executor will need to compile all relevant paperwork relating to the estate, and to inform relevant banks and insurance companies (for example) of the person’s death. For this reason, it’s important to make an executor aware of the extent of your estate, and make the relevant paperwork easy for them to find.
3. Probate application
The executor can apply for probate, which means they have the right to divide the person’s estate after death. To do so, the executor must apply to the Probate Registry and get permission.
4. Opening a bank account & paying off debts
The executor should open a bank account to hold the deceased person’s funds, and then use these funds to pay off any outstanding debts. The executor must also pay any tax which is owed on the person’s estate.
5. Dividing the estate
In accordance with the person’s will, the executor can distribute the remaining funds to the correct people and/or organisations listed within the will.
6. Finishing up
Finally, the executor must settle the accounts and have this signed off by the beneficiaries of the will. They must document all the person’s assets, how much money was paid in taxes and deductions, and how the remaining funds were distributed.
Where should I store my will?
Your will is a sensitive legal document, so you will need to store it safely to ensure that it is not destroyed (e.g. by fire or water damage). Once it has been created, you should keep it in a safe and accessible place. Plenty of people choose to keep their will with their solicitor or bank. On the other hand, others choose to keep at home in a strong-box or safe.
However you choose to do it, you must let the people executing your will know where the document is. That way, they will be able to access it when they need to.
How do I update my will?
There are many reasons why someone might want to update their will. For example, a divorce or a change in financial situation. Whatever the reason, it is possible to update your will as long as you follow the right steps. Many legal firms recommend that you review your will and update it every 5 years.
For small adjustments, you can add an amendment known as a ‘codicil’. This simply needs to be signed off and witnessed in the exact same way as the original will. However, if you need to make significant changes that are likely to affect the whole will – you should probably write a new one (and cancel the old one).
Do I need to register my Last Will and Testament?
You don’t have to register your will, but it’s certainly a good idea to do so. There are several benefits:
- It helps your executor find your will – registering your document ensures that it can be found and used when the time comes. Unfortunately, if the will cannot be found, then you will be considered ‘intestate’ (as if you had not written a will at all).
- It prevents fraud – a verified and registered copy of your will prevents a third party disposing of it and earmarks it as the legitimate copy.
- It stops an older will being used – if your most recent will cannot be located, then an old one is likely to be used instead.
Whatever decision you make about your Last Will and Testament is important, and may have big implications for the rest of your family. The best decision is to begin drafting your will as soon as possible, and make sure it suits your needs and life situation.
Find out what to consider when making a will in this post.