Writing a will: why I’ve just finished my third

Writing a will: why I’ve just finished my third

Most of us have never written a will, but the truth is we probably need to write more than one in our lives. In fact, I’m on number three.

Sue Hayward

Household money

Sue Hayward
Updated on 15 October 2018

Making your will is never going to be a fun job, and it’s all too easy to put off, so how do you get started?

I’m now on to will number three.

Sounds a little strange put like that, but since I made my first one in my early twenties, I’ve now done two more as life’s moved on over the years.

And through my experiences, I’ve learned there are pros and cons of going the ‘free’ DIY route versus paying for a solicitor.

How to create a will for free

Going the DIY route

I’ll admit to dragging my feet about making my first will.

I did it just before I went backpacking around the world, and while I had a lengthy ‘to do’ list, making a will had never entered my head.

However, a good friend of mine said she’d done one before heading off to Australia, so I decided it would be the ‘sensible’ thing to do, and tried to think of it as an insurance policy for the ‘just in case’ factor.

I headed off to WH Smith and bought a ‘DIY’ will kit which was the cheap and easy option.

At that stage, I didn’t have much to leave.

I wasn’t married, didn’t have children and my ‘worldly goods’ amounted to little more than a scraping of savings, having already sold my car to maximise my backpacking fund.

There was nothing complex about it from what I remember, and the pack came with notes relating to each section along with the information needed.  

I roped in a couple of friends as witnesses, and it was job done and I left the sealed envelope with my sister.

Make sure any savings you're setting aside earn a top rate

Second will: ensuring my daughter is cared for

Fast forward several years and the second time around, I did another DIY will, this time from Amazon for around £10.  

The ‘occasion’ that prompted me into this second time around was after the breakdown of a long-term relationship, when living with my young daughter, I felt I should ensure everything was tied up and sorted.

This time around it wasn’t just about leaving some savings, as I needed to think about my wishes for my daughter’s future if anything happened to me.

Filling in the template will form was actually quite straightforward on this issue, but when it came to who I was leaving things to, I remember worrying about how much detail to go into when it came to listing my ‘worldly goods’.

I had a little more to my name and, of course, the big downside of the DIY pack was that there was nobody to advise me on how much detail to go into.

So I thought I’d better list the lot, and put down every single bank and savings account I possessed along with insurance and pension policies plus my rather clapped out car, which went to the scrap heap shortly afterwards.

Make sure any savings you're setting aside earn a top rate

Paying a solicitor to create a will

Paying extra for a solicitor can be a good idea if you've accrued a lot of assets (Image: Shutterstock)

By now I’d been married for a few years, and the fact I’d not got around to making a new will niggled away at the back of my mind.

Now I’m no legal expert, but I was aware that if anything happened to me at this stage, my daughter could miss out, as the law would dictate that the first £250,000 of my ‘estate’, along with personal possessions, would automatically pass to my husband.

While I’d previously been happy with my DIY wills, this time around, with other people involved, I felt I needed proper advice on the best ways to do things, why is why I went down the ‘solicitor’ route.

Finding the right solicitor and knowing how much to pay seemed a bit daunting, so having written about the Will Aid campaign over the years, I decided to get the job done this way.

If you’re not familiar with it, Will Aid is a national campaign during November when over 750 solicitors across the UK waive their usual will writing fees in exchange for a donation to charity.

I found a local solicitor through their website, rang up for an informal chat, and then made an appointment.

Before the appointment, I was sent a list of questions about practical details like whether I owned property, savings, shares or businesses along with family details.

While I had a clear idea of how I wanted things shared out, writing down the financial details proved really helpful and I compiled a little list of questions on the best way to do things ahead of my meeting.

On the day the whole thing took around an hour.

We talked over what I wanted, and my solicitor suggested different ways of doing this, which is where the ‘advice’ part of the service can be invaluable.

You could argue that the ‘downside’ of using a solicitor is the cost.

And while I did give the full ‘suggested’ charity donation of £95, that’s still substantially less than the £150 – £200 the Money Advice Service says is the average cost of making even a simple will.

But I have to say, it was worth every penny, as far from feeling morbid or emotional, I actually came away with a huge sense of relief as I’ve got things sorted and in a better way.

Having your affairs in order is vital for so many reasons. Make sure you haven't forgotten everything with our complete guide.

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