Making a will

A Close Up Of TypewriterA will is a legal document in which you say what you would like to happen to your property and possessions (your estate) when you die.

If you do not write a will, what happens to your property after your death is automatically decided according to the intestacy rules. But the intestacy rules may not represent your wishes.

How do I write my will?

You can write your own will. There is no special wording that needs to be included in the will. For it to be legally valid:

  • you have to be at least 18 years old
  • you have to be of sound mind
  • the will has to be in writing
  • you have to sign the will in front of two witnesses, who also have to sign it.

Witnesses have to be at least 18 years old and be able to understand what they are doing. They cannot be a beneficiary (someone who receives something through the will) or a spouse or civil partner of a beneficiary.

You also need to state who you would like to be the executor or executors of your estate. They will be responsible for carrying out the instructions in your will.

If the will is not legally valid, then your estate will be distributed according to the intestacy rules.

Will-writing packs are available in shops to help you prepare a will. If you do not want to write your will yourself, you can also go to a solicitor or professional will writer. Alternatively, you may be eligible to make use of a service provided by:

  • your trade union
  • as part of your home or car insurance cover
  • charity-based schemes such as Free Wills Month or Will Aid-Nationwide
  • individual charities

What do I do with my will after writing it?

You can keep your will at home in a safe place. Alternatively, you can give it to a bank, solicitor, accountant or any Probate Registry for looking after. There may be charges for this.

You will also need to let your executor know where your will is, so that they can find it in the event of your death.

Can I change my will?

It is possible that between the time of writing a will and your death, you may wish or have to change your instructions to reflect changes in your circumstances. For example, a beneficiary or executor may die, you may get divorced and remarry or your relationships in general change. You can amend your will by writing a separate document called a codicil, that is then attached to the will. A codicil has to be witnessed but not necessarily by the witnesses who signed the original will.

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