Writing a Will

Writing a will is crucial to ensure your loved ones are provided for after your death. Without one, disputes can arise. Learn more about the importance here.

Writing a Will

Writing a will is an important step in ensuring that your wishes are respected and your loved ones are provided for after your death. Despite this, many people neglect to write a will, either because they believe they do not have enough assets to make it worthwhile, they cannot be bothered, think it’s a waste of money, or because they simply do not want to confront the idea of their own mortality.

However, the reality is that failing to write a will can lead to a range of problems and complications for your loved ones after you’re gone. If you die without a will, and there is no other living relatives your estate will be subject to the law of intestacy, which have different rules in different areas such as, England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and outside of the UK.

This means that your assets will be distributed according to a set of legal rules, rather than your wishes. This can lead to disputes, stress and tension among family members, at an already emotional time. Following legal rules may well not reflect your true intentions.

Low-cost will writing service

Elm Legal Services are will writing specialists which offer a low cost will from £99.00. They offer both an online will service and home visit will service. Elm operate from Bristol and cover England and Wales, but not Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Telephone: 0117 332 5208

No will = no control

In addition, without a will, if there are no living relatives you will have no control over who will manage your estate after you’re gone. This means that the court will appoint an administrator to manage your affairs, rather than an executor who you could have chosen and trust to carry out your wishes. This can lead to delays, complications, and potentially even mistakes, as the administrator may not have the necessary skills or knowledge to manage your estate effectively.

Writing a will can also help to minimise the amount of inheritance tax that your estate will have to pay. A will can be structured in a way that takes advantage of tax exemptions and reliefs, helping to ensure that more of your assets go to your loved ones rather than to the taxman.

Perhaps most importantly, writing a will provides peace of mind for both you and your loved ones. It ensures that your wishes are respected and that your loved ones are provided for in the way that you would have wanted. It can also help to avoid disputes and tensions among family members, as everyone knows exactly what your wishes are and how your estate will be distributed.

For these reasons, it is always recommended to write a will, even if you believe your estate to be relatively simple, to ensure that your wishes are respected and your loved ones are provided for in the way you would have wanted.

Who can write a will

In the UK, a will can be written by anyone who is over 18 years old and is of sound mind. While solicitors are qualified legal professionals who can provide expert advice on wills and estates, they are not the only ones who can write a will on behalf of a client.

If writing your will you must sign it in front of two witnesses, who must also sign it. Importantly you cannot leave witnesses or their spouses anything in your will. Witnesses do not have to sign the will at the same time as each other. Apart from signing the witnesses must also write name, address and occupation.

If at a later date you wish to change the will (known as a “Codicil” – official alteration) then you must repeat the same witnesses and signature procedure. If, however you decide to make a completely new will then the old will must be destroyed and made clear in the new will that any previous wills are revoked.

Writing a will for free

Writing a will for free is popular and many individuals choose to write their own wills using low-cost DIY will kits or low-cost online will-writing services. However, it is important to point out that will writing is NOT regulated unless using a solicitor.

Regulations for will writing

To ensure that the process of writing a will is carried out correctly, being valid and legally binding, and that it accurately reflects the individual’s wishes, many people choose to seek the assistance of a solicitor or other qualified professional when writing their will. As solicitors are regulated you are covered by many important regulations.

Examples when very advisable to use professional services:

  • Your normal residence is abroad
  • You have property abroad
  • You own a business
  • Other family members who may make a claim on your will, such as a second spouse or children  from a previous relationship.
  • You share a property with someone who is not your spouse or civil partner.
  • You wish to give money or assets to a dependant who is unable to look after themselves.

It’s important to note that if a will is not written correctly, it may not be legally valid, and this can cause complications for the individual’s estate and their loved ones after they pass away. Therefore, it is recommended to seek professional advice when writing a will to ensure that it is accurate, valid, and legally binding.

Key points for writing a will

There are several reasons why it is important to write a will. Here are some of the key points:

  • Control over distribution of assets: Writing a will allows you to decide how your assets, such as money, property, and possessions, will be distributed after your death. This ensures that your wishes are granted and that your loved ones are provided for.
  • Protection of family members: If you have dependents, such as children or elderly relatives, a will can provide for their care and support after your death. For example, you can appoint a guardian for your children, or leave a specific sum of money for the care of an elderly relative.
  • Avoiding disputes: Without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy, which may not reflect your wishes or the needs of your loved ones. This can lead to disputes and legal challenges from family members, which can be time-consuming and costly.
  • Appointing an executor: A will allows you to appoint an executor to manage your estate after your death. This ensures that your estate is managed by someone you trust, and who has the necessary skills and knowledge to handle your affairs.
  • Tax planning: Writing a will can also help you to minimise the amount of inheritance tax that your estate will have to pay. A solicitor or other qualified professional can provide advice on how to structure your will to minimise tax liabilities.

Making a will

The Government website sets out the basic information of making a will in England.

There are different regulations in Scotland for will writing and Northern Ireland for will writing.

Bear in mind that if you choose to use a solicitor to be the executor of your will, that solicitor’s fees can be high and may even be based on a percentage of the total value of your estate. It is for this reason that many people choose a family member to be an executor.

Updating your will

Things in life move on quickly and for many things often change. Therefore, after writing a will it’s important to think of updating your will every few years if things change such as:

  • Moving property
  • Having children
  • Getting married as this will revoke any previous wills
  • Getting separated or divorced

What is probate?

In brief, applying for probate is a legal right to deal with someone’s estate, when they die. You should therefore not put any property on the sale market or make other financial plans until probate has been granted. 

To release funds from the estate of the deceased probate may still be needed by some banks or other financial organisations even if a will has been made. This is because different organisations have their own rules in releasing funds.

No will – is probate needed? 

Yes, probate would be needed if a person dies without writing a will as their estate will be subject to the law of intestacy. This means that the nearest living relative can apply for probate with no will.

The process of administering the estate and distributing the assets is managed by the Probate Court, and the person responsible for managing the process is called the Administrator, rather than the Executor (who would be appointed by a will).

There are different probate rules in Scotland where it is referred to as Confirmation, and different probate rules in Northern Ireland.

Farewill the low-cost probate specialists offer low-cost probate services.

Taking action on will writing

Writing a will for free, or through a qualified person is an important step in ensuring that your wishes are respected, your loved ones are provided for, and your estate is managed in the way that you would have wanted after your death. If you have not yet written a will, it is never too late to get started. If you do not feel you are able to write a will then speak to a solicitor or other qualified professional for advice.

Storing a will

It is important to store the will in a safe place and make any executors aware of where it is stored. Apart from storing in a safe place at home, such as a fireproof safe, both banks and solicitors can provide safe storage.

For further helpful information covering different aspects of funerals from poems, flowers, bereavement gift ideas, what to wear at a funeral, low-cost headstones and much more, visit the Save Funeral Costs™ blog.

SW Barratt
Founder: SW Barratt

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