Making a will: useful tips

When asked whether they have made a will, clients often say the same things. They are either planning to make a will at some point; they don’t think they will need one or they assume that their house and other assets will fall automatically to certain people. Having no will or a will which is not drawn up correctly can lead to severe complications. Dying without a will can also mean the government steps in and makes decisions which are not likely to be what the deceased wanted!

People often assume that making a will is all about distributing assets and money. The truth is that making a will is about making arrangements for what happens after death. Whilst this includes assets they are certainly not the only consideration. You might initially think your will would be simple, but it may end up extremely complicated once you have taken proper wills advice and everything is included. This is where a wills and probate solicitor can help.

By using a specialist wills and probate solicitor to make a will, you can avoid the potential jousting and family fallout over “who gets what”, but you can also make sure that many other things are set in stone which may otherwise have potential to cause conflicts.

What to include

Assets. It is important that everything you own is written down. Aside from any property assets, other things to consider are your car, jewellery, savings accounts, Premium Bonds, stocks and shares and insurance policies. You should also include ‘virtual’ assets: you may have a vast iTunes library, for example.

Beneficiaries. Make a note of all beneficiaries that you are likely to include when making a will. This may be family, friends, charities, political parties, and so on.

Executors. These are the people who will be tasked with handling – or executing – your will. Anyone can be named, but they should be trusted, willing and capable of handling your financial affairs. Up to four executors are allowed, but more usually means the estate takes longer to administer. Two or three is usually a good compromise. It is common to include a solicitor because they can provide an unemotional, impartial approach, but it is entirely up to you.

Once all of the information for the will is documented, it can then be drawn up by your wills and probate solicitor.

Questions to ask

Some questions you should discuss with your wills and probate solicitor are:

  • Do I want a single will or a joint will?
  • What will my funeral arrangements be?
  • Who will get my property and assets?
  • What happens to my debts?
  • Who will look after my non-adult children?
  • What will happen to my pets?
  • What will happen to my business?
  • Will Inheritance Tax be payable? Can I reduce my beneficiaries’ exposure?
  • Do I want to give anything to charity? Are there any benefits in doing so?

Updating a will

Making a will is not a one-off task. Your will should be updated if your circumstances change in order to ensure your wishes are properly carried out. Wills can be altered using a codicil, which is a formal document in the same style as a will which overrides or amends aspects of the original. Alternatively you can simply draw up a new will and revoke anything drawn up prior to it.

If you wish to discuss altering or making a will with a wills and probate solicitor, please call one of our offices or send us an enquiry through this website. We have wills and probate specialists who assist clients with wills on a daily basis, and will be happy to help you plan and draw up a valid and robust will.