Will Writing Advice.

Thinking about writing a Will can be daunting yet it is probably one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

Writing a Will:

  • Makes your wishes known. Keeping your Will up to date gives you peace of mind that the people and causes that matter to you will be looked after in the way you want.
  • Helps your family and friends. A Will means your family and friends can administer your estate knowing that they are acting on your wishes.
  • Gives your assets to the people and causes you care about. Without a Will that sets out your wishes, what happens to your estate when you die will be decided by law. If you have written a Will, you keep control.
  • Can minimise inheritance tax. Having a Will may reduce the amount of inheritance tax that could be payable on your estate.

Explore our Will writing FAQs below.

What is a Will?

A Will is a legally binding document that sets out how your estate should be distributed after your death. Your estate is made up of everything you own, such as money, property and personal belongings. Your estate also includes your share of things that you may own with other people. Anything you owe such as a mortgage is deducted from the total value of your estate.

A Will is where you can detail who you want to give your belongings to, who should look after any children, and can include your wishes with regard to pets and your funeral.

If you die without a Will, you are ‘intestate’, and the law decides on who inherits your assets. This may not reflect your intentions.

Having an up to date, professionally written Will is the best way to ensure your wishes are followed.

How do I find a solicitor and write a Will?

We would always recommend that you use a solicitor to ensure that your wishes are fully understood. A solicitor can give you professional advice including information about inheritance tax. They can also keep a copy of your Will if you wish.

You can find a solicitor by contacting the Law Society at lawsociety.org.uk or calling them on 0207 242 1222.

St Leonard’s Hospice also organises an annual ‘Make a Will Month’ in October. During the month we offer a will writing service where you can have your Will written by a local solicitor in exchange for a donation to St Leonard’s.

What things should I consider before I visit a solicitor?

Can I update an existing Will?
If you wish to update an existing Will you can choose to either make a completely new Will or add a ‘codicil’. A codicil is a supplement that sets out changes to your existing Will and is read alongside it. Writing an entirely new Will can be the safer option as a codicil can become misplaced from the Will it relates to.

What should I do once my Will is written and witnessed? 
It is important your Will is stored safely and crucially that you tell your executors where they will be able to find it after your death. If you have used the services of a solicitor they will usually store it for you free of charge and give you a copy. Alternatively you could store it with the Probate Service in England & Wales. There is a small fee to do this but withdrawing it is free.

How often should I update my Will? 
It’s a good idea to review your Will every five years, even if there has been no big changes in your life. You might have changed your mind about something. Or you may wish to check if there have been any changes to the law which might affect your Will. You will also need to revisit your Will if you; get married or enter into a civil partnership; get a divorce; have children or any other new relatives (like nieces, nephews or grandchildren) who you wish to include; buy a house or obtain any other valuable assets.

What happens on my death if I fail to make a Will?
If you don’t have a valid Will on your death, your personal wishes may not be implemented. The law will decide what happens to your estate. This may mean that your intended beneficiaries receive nothing. If you die intestate (i.e. without a Will) and without a living relative, your estate will go to the Crown.

What types of gifts can I leave in Wills?

There are five types of gifts to consider:

A specific gift, which are items such as property, stocks and shares or other valuables like jewellery or paintings.

A reversionary gift, allowing you to provide for a loved one during their lifetime e.g. giving them the use of a house. After their death the asset is then passed to another, specified beneficiary.

A contingent gift, which is a gift in your Will that depends on the occurrence of an event which may or may not happen.

A residuary gift, which is a share of your estate i.e. a percentage of what is left after any taxes or costs have been subtracted. As this gift is a percentage of your estate you don’t need to worry if your financial situation changes. It will keep its value over time.

A pecuniary gift, which is a fixed sum of money e.g. £1,000 and is also known as a cash gift. It is a good idea to review pecuniary gifts regularly as their value can be lessened with inflation and turn out to be less generous than you intended.

How solicitors may operate differently

New Will instructions may be taken either over the telephone or by email. Letters and draft copies of Wills may be sent via email or if necessary, by post.

Solicitors acting in connection with the execution of Wills have been classed as ‘key workers’. They have therefore adapted their usual practices in line with the Government guidance in order to protect the health of their clients whilst ensuring that it is, as far as possible, ‘business as usual’.

One of the main issues facing solicitors during the Covid-19 outbreak is Will signings. In order to be valid, the Will must be executed correctly. This means the person making the Will (testator) has to have their actual signing of their Will witnessed by two independent individuals.

Many solicitors are willing to continue visiting clients at home to sign their Wills. Precautionary measures will be taken such as wearing protective gloves and using one pen per person. Wills can be signed outdoors or even witnessed through a window for particularly vulnerable individuals. Solicitors are committed to ensuring that the social distancing restrictions are not an obstacle for those wishing to make a Will during these unsettling times.

The protection of health is paramount however putting your affairs in order continues to be extremely important and solicitors will work with you to ensure your Will is completely valid.