How do I make a will?

The media often suggest that more than half of the population in England and Wales doesn’t have a will. This means one in every two people won’t have control over what happens to their estate when they die. None of their wishes will be recorded in a legal document, meaning their loved ones might not be provided for in the way they want and they have no say over the people that will eventually help deal with their affairs.

A will is a legal document. It is really important that anyone with assets, and especially children and extended family, makes a will so that they can be sure their estate is divided up the way they want after their death. It is never too late to make a will and this step-by-step guide will help lead you through the process so that our lawyers can draw up the document. If you die without a will is it known as dying intestate. If that is the case, it will be left to the law to decide who gets what.

Before you ask us to act for you there are a number of decisions you need to make such as:

  • Who is to benefit from your will?
  • If you have children under the age of 18, who will look after them? In this case, you will need to ask the person you appoint if they would be willing to care for your children if the unthinkable happens
  • Who is going to be your executor – the person who will carry out the terms of your will? See our guidance on choosing the right executor
  • And what will happen to your estate if the people you want to benefit from your estate die before you do?
  • Making a will is a relatively simple process, especially when you are guided through by a qualified wills lawyer.

What are the complications in making a will?

Making a will is going to be more complicated in the following circumstances:

  • If you are cohabiting with someone you are not married to or in a civil partnership with
  • If you own a business
  • If you have property abroad
  • If your main home is outside the UK
  • If you want to leave money or property to someone who cannot care for themselves, a vulnerable adult or child, for instance
  • If your family circumstances mean that individuals may make a claim on your will, for instance, a second husband or wife or children from another marriage
  • If you are looking to minimise inheritance tax

It is important that your will should be tailor-made to your individual requirements. Our experts will be able to take you through the whole process.

Beware of wills on the cheap

Online wills may be good for some people but there are some pitfalls. Should you use the wrong wording it could mean that your instructions are not followed, and in a worst-case scenario, invalidate your will. Sometimes there are problems with signing and witnessing a will, which can also stop your wishes from being carried out.

We would always recommend speaking to a specialist wills solicitor that deals with writing wills every day. Using a solicitor to write your will means you are talking to someone that is properly trained and are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Solicitors adhere to a code of conduct and principles laid out by the SRA, ensuring they operate with integrity and in the best interests of their clients and the wider public.

Cheap offers on will writing can be a false economy. We heard from one client who took out a £29 will through a will-writing agency, but it actually cost them over £500 in the end. To add insult to injury it didn’t take into account their needs. Our specialist wills solicitors were able to prepare a bespoke will for half the cost!

What if someone dies without making a will?

When someone dies without leaving a valid will, the intestacy rules are followed, which sets out who will inherit your estate.

The intestacy rules follow a specific order and consider things such as:

  • whether they were married or in a civil partnership
  • how much their estate is worth
  • whether they had any children
  • if their parents, siblings, nephews or nieces are still alive
  • if they have any living grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins

Depending upon the result of these considerations, the individual’s estate will either be distributed accordingly or passed to the Crown.

So, how do I make a will?

The best thing to do is to talk to a solicitor and find out the best way to protect your assets and your loved ones. Birkett Long can help you with:

  • Wills and codicils
  • Estate planning
  • Lasting powers of attorney
  • Statutory wills for Court of Protection patients

For your own peace of mind, and that of your family members, give our friendly team of wills solicitors in Chelmsford, Basildon or Colchester on:

Wills solicitors in Colchester - 01206 217300

Wills solicitors in Chelmsford - 01245 453800

Wills solicitors in Basildon - 01268 244144

  • Nicky Halls
      • 01206 217390
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  • Frances Lavender
      • 01268 824928
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  • Jill Morris
      • 01245 453849
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  • Jane Wicker
      • 01245 453842
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  • Bethany Wrightson
      • 01206 217333
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Birkett Long’s expert team includes members of Solicitors for the Elderly and the Society of Estate Practitioners (STEP), which means we are committed to treating clients with dignity, respect and sensitivity, and to avoid unnecessary legal terminology.

Many of the firm's staff have chosen to become Dementia Friends, an initiative run by Alzheimer's Society. Alzheimer’s Society hopes to create 4 million Dementia Friends by 2020. It is not just an individual that is affected by dementia, it touches family and friends too. If you are planning ahead for a loved one and need any legal help we are focusing on becoming a Dementia Friendly firm and are here to support you as well as your loved ones.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.