Why do you need a will?

If you die without a will, you be will deemed to have died 'intestate', Your estate will be dealt with according to a rigid set of Intestacy Laws, which can cause issues for your grieving family.

If you die intestate:

  • You can't appoint someone you trust as the executor

  • Your family may face a huge tax bill as only the first 325,000 is tax-free

Who can write a will?

  • You: There are plenty of DIY kits available to buy online and in stationary stores. There are also books and websites that can provide guidance on will writing.

  • Solicitors: Especially if your will is complicated. They hold extensive legal knowledge and can ensure your will is legally valid. They will charge you for their services.

It is advisable to use a solicitor for a peace of mind. Poorly drafted or incorrectly witnessed DIY wills can cause more complex problems.

How to find a solicitor

  1. 1.

    Work with a solicitor you can trust: Ideally one you have used before, or one recommended by friends and family.

  2. 2.

    Contact The Law Society: They represent and regulate solicitors, or visit the Law Society website.

Read the rules and principles of professional conduct for solicitors in the Solicitors' Code of Conduct 2007 so you know your rights and what to expect from a solicitor.

How much will it cost?

Solicitors' costs vary from firm to firm. For a simple will you should expect to pay somewhere between 70 and 100. The more complex the will, the higher the cost.

Who should you choose as executor?

Being an executor is a complex and demanding role, often involving large sums of money. Appoint:

  • Someone you trust and is willing to take on the responsibility

  • A substitute executor to give you a back-up if your primary executor were to die

Should you set up a trust?

A trust is an arrangement that allows you to transfer your estate to someone you trust whilst you are still alive.
Using a trust means that after you die your:

  1. Appointed trustee(s) will be in charge of passing your estate on to your beneficiaries

  2. Estate does not go through the system of probate that governs the execution of a will

You will need to work with a solicitor to set up a trust, including the appointment of trustees to oversee and maintain your estate until it is passed on to your beneficiaries.

Establishing a trust can be extremely tax efficient, especially for married couples. It save your children up to 110,000 in inheritance tax.

Should you make specific legacies?

If you want to protect particular items, such as family heirlooms, consider treating them as specific legacies.

Name them in your will and give instructions as to who should take over their ownership once you die.

Should you leave a residual legacy?

Once any specific instructions to distribute your estate have been carried out, any remaining money or property is called your residual legacy.

It is vital that you leave instructions as to how this should be disbursed in your will. If you don't, it will be deemed intestate and dealt with under the Intestacy Laws.

Who can witness a will?

It is important that you sign your will, otherwise it will be worthless in law. Your witnesses must:

  • Be two independent people

  • Not be benefiting from your will

  • Not be blind or partially sighted

  • Have sufficient mental capacity

Remember that anyone likely to benefit from your will cannot be a witness to its signing.

How should the will be stored?

Once the will has been written and signed:

  1. 1.

    Don't hide it: If your will cannot be found after your death, you will be deemed to have died intestate and your efforts will have been wasted.

  2. 2.

    Keep it safe: In a storage facility, where it will be protected from fire, flood, damage or loss.

Your executors will be given certificates telling them where your will is stored and how to get hold of it after your death.

For more information about safe storage, speak with your solicitor.