How to make a will

 

A will is a legal declaration by which a person declares who will manage and inherit their estate (money and/or assets) when they die. It is governed by the Wills Act 1937.

It is important not to delay thinking about what will happen when you die, so that you can properly plan what will happen to your assets. It is important that your assets go to the people that you want them to go to and are not just distributed in accordance with the law. 

What are the different types of will?

There are two main types of will which a solicitor can draft to ensure that upon death your wishes are met:

  • Single wills: This is a simple will whereby you will clearly state exactly who your beneficiaries are and exactly what you would like them to receive upon your death
  • Mirror/Mutual wills: This is where your partner and yourself will have identical wills stating that each of you will leave your estate to the other upon your death

Creating a valid will

To be legally valid a will must:

  • Be made by someone over the age of 18 (12 in Scotland), and of sound mind
  • Be made by someone capable of understanding the purpose and effect of the will they are producing, and be able to recall the property to be disposed of
  • They must also know and approve of the contents at the will at the time it is produced
  • The will must be made in writing (unless made by a member of the armed forces in active combat) and must be signed or marked by the person making the will, who is called the testator if a man, or a testatrix if a woman
  • The signature should normally be at the end but courts have accepted as valid wills where the signature is elsewhere. It is customary for the person making the will to sign each page
  • The will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses. Anyone can be a witness, but the law states that neither a witness to a will nor their partner should benefit from that will. Usually your solicitor will provide two witnesses for your will

Where should I keep my will?

It is generally advisable not to store a will at home. It is more common and secure to store a will with solicitors, which can be very convenient especially if they have also been appointed to act as the person’s executors (i.e. to deal with the estate when the person dies).

Banks often provide will storage services and there are many businesses that specialise in storing wills.

Alternatively, you can choose to store your will with the Probate Service (part of the High Court that deals with matters involving wills).

There are several different possibilities for storing a will, and your choice will depend on your own circumstances. The most important thing is to make sure that your executors and legal representatives know where your will is stored. A solicitor can discuss the legal issues surrounding will storage with you, and help you make the best choice.

What happens if my will cannot be found?

If someone dies and their will cannot be found, the property will be divided between family members following a process called the law of intestacy. This is highly unlikely to reflect the exact intentions of the deceased and could lead to friends or family members being disappointed or left hard-up. It is also likely to cause considerable stress to loved ones during a time that is already difficult, and could lead to disputes.

If you would like to make a will, or amend an existing one, Contact Law can put you in touch with a specialist wills solicitor to ensure your will is valid. Please call us on 0808 129 5761 or complete the web-form on the right hand side.

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