A will is a document that states what happens to your possessions, including property and money, after you pass away.
Why make a will?
There are many reasons to make a will, but the most important one is that you can decide who your estate goes to after you pass away. This is especially important if you have children and you need to specify who will care for them, or if you and your partner are not married, because they will not automatically inherit from you otherwise.
Knowing that your loved ones will inherit your money and property can give you peace of mind – not only will your hard-earned estate be in good hands, but your family will have extra financial security too.
Writing a will also ensures you don’t pay too much inheritance tax. Possessions left to your spouse or civil partner are usually inherited tax-free, and if you leave a property to your children (including adopted, fostered or step-children) then anything they inherit from you has a higher tax-free threshold than if you left the property to someone else, provided your estate is worth less than £2 million.
If you make a will you also have the opportunity to leave some money to charity. This is a good way of helping out causes that are close to you, and if you leave a big enough donation (10% of the value of your estate) then the inheritance tax rate will be reduced from 40% to 36%.
Find out more about why you should write a will and what to consider before making a will.
How to write a will
In your will, you should be clear on what you own (including money and property), who your beneficiaries are, who your executors are, who will look after any children under 18, and what you want to happen if any of your beneficiaries die before you.
In order to make your will legally binding, you must:
- Be 18 or over
- Put it in writing
- Make it voluntarily and be of a sound mind
- Sign it in the presence of two witnesses, both of whom are over 18 and are not beneficiaries in the will
- Have these two witnesses also sign the will
These criteria must also be met whenever you make any changes to your will.
When it comes to writing a will, you have three choices: you can choose to write your will yourself, or hire a will-writer or solicitor. It is generally a good idea to hire a legal professional, even just to check and sign it at the end, to ensure your will is legally binding and will have the effect you intended.
It’s especially important to seek legal advice if your will is complex. The things that can make a will complex include:
- You share a property with someone you’re not married or in a civil partnership with
- Once of your beneficiaries is a dependent (bear in mind that if you’re leaving some or all of your estate to someone under 18, it may be necessary to hire a solicitor instead of a will-writer)
- You have several family members who might claim on your will, for example if you’ve been married more than once or you have children from a previous relationship
- You have property overseas
- You own a business
Once you’ve written your will you can store it at home or with your solicitor, your bank, the London Probate Service or a company that offers the storage of wills (you can search for these online).
Be sure to tell someone where your will is being stored, such as the executor, a close friend, or a relative.
What happens if you don’t make a will?
If you don’t make a will your money and assets will be given away based on predefined laws. The law will also decide who will look after any children under the age of 18.
Find out more about what happens if you pass away without writing a will.
The Law Superstore can put you in touch with legal professionals who can give advice, give you the peace of mind that your will is legally-binding, and tell you how much writing your will is going to cost.