How to make a Will

It's a lot easier to make a Will than you might think....

Yesterday, I finally got around to writing a Will. I’ve been meaning to do it for ages, but have been putting it off and putting it off. So I was surprised by the intense sense of relief I felt once it was done. Knowing that my husband and I – and any children we will hopefully one day have – will not die intestate gives me real peace of mind.

Why? Because, without  a Will, your spouse and children could be put in a very difficult financial position, particularly if you have an estate worth more than £250,000 and/or you do not own your home as joint tenants. Read The Rules of Intestancy on for more detail on the ins and outs of who will inherit what if you die without a Will.

But even if you are joint tenants and have an estate worth £250,000 or less, it’s still tricky. According to DirectGov, when someone dies without a Will, it can take months or even years to sort out the inheritance. Your loved ones will normally need to get help from a solicitor and apply to the Probate Registry, and it can take a long time to get the authority to access and distribute funds that were held in the your name.

What’s more, a Will is your opportunity to clarify exactly what your funeral wishes are, and to grant specific gifts to friends or family.

But most importantly, for me at least, a Will gives you the opportunity to state who you would like to be the legal guardian of any children you have. Otherwise, if you were to die without a Will, Social Services will decide who will care for your children, not your family.

Social Services? No thanks

Personally I can only imagine how distressing interference from Social Service would be for the surviving parent at such a difficult time. But there is one thought which is even worse. If both parents died in an accident together, Social Services could decide that, for example, it would be best if their children were placed in separate care homes rather than, say, allowed to live overseas with their grandparents. All because you didn’t make a Will.

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It’s an absolutely horrendous thought. So why do so many people put it off?

It's not expensive. In fact, it only cost us £135 to make a mirror Will for the two of us (a mirror Will is where you and your spouse make identical Wills leaving, for example, everything to each other or, if you both die, to the children, as well as specifying guardianship).

You can get a cheaper Will by doing it yourself online, but I used the Institute of Professional Will-writers (IPW) directory to find a local Will-writer who would come to my home and take us through the process. Will-writers aren’t as expensive as solicitors, but if they are members of a society like the IPW, you can take confidence in their OFT-approved code of practice as well as the external conciliation service if there is cause for complaint.

The whole process took just an hour and a half, and I was impressed with the professionalism and expertise of the Will-writer (from the Legal Systems partnership), as well as the fact that she was a Citizens Advice volunteer.

You may, however, prefer the added protection of using a Will-writing solicitor. I know other writers in the team would never use anyone but a solicitor. At the end of the day, you need to feel 100% comfortable with whatever approach you take so consider your options carefully.

Can I get a free Will?

Potentially, yes. During November, more than 1,000 solicitors offer free Will-writing services – to find out more, visit the Will Aid website. Outside November, check whether your home insurance policy, employer or trade union offers you a free or discounted Will-writing service. Bear in mind that if you’re a single parent, over 70, disabled or have a disabled child, you may be able to get free help via Community Legal Advice.

What is the process for making a Will?

The first thing you need to decide is who to appoint as your executors. Executors will deal with the administration of your estate when you die. Check they are willing to act as executors before you appoint them. You'll need to know their full names - including any middle names - and their postal addresses.

Then, if you have children, consider who you would like to be their legal Guardian(s) in the event of the death of you and your partner. It is often a good idea to make the Guardian an executor.

Think about your funeral – do you wish to be cremated or buried? Do you have any special requests?

Then, consider your assets. Are there any specific gifts you would like to bequest to anyone in particular? The Will-writer will need a clear description from you so there is no confusion later.

Issues of inheritance tax and writing assets or insurance policies in Trust may arise, depending on the value of your estate, so be prepared to discuss these issues with your Will-writer. Read How to cut your Inheritance Tax bill for more help!

Share your experiences

Have you made a Will? If not, why not? If you did, did you use a solicitor, a Will-writer or an online template? Which do you think provides the best value for money? Do you pay for Will storage and how much does it cost you? As it's my first Will, I'm keen to hear from more experienced readers on this topic. Let me know what you think!

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