Can I make my own Will?
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To be valid, a will must be in writing, signed, and witnessed by two independent adults.
Yes, you can make your own will, and it be valid in the UK. Let’s take a look at what makes a will valid, and if you are going to write your own will, what things you will need to think about.
What makes a will valid and legal?
The law that states how a will becomes legal effective dates right back to 1837 (Wills Act). In simple terms, a will is legally valid when it is:-
- In writing
- Signed – by the testator (the person making the will); and
- Witnessed – when the testator signed 2 people witnessed the signature
Is a handwritten will legal in the UK?
There is no requirement for wills to be ‘typed’. When the Wills Act (1837) came into force quill pens were the order of the day!
Can I write my own will without a solicitor?
There is no requirement for a solicitor to prepare (or indeed witness) your will for it to be legally valid.
Is a Post Office Will legal?
Potentially yes if completed correctly and signed and witnessed properly. But, like any homemade will, it is not so much whether it is valid or not, as to the content that you include in it! Have you thought everything through in terms of what to include?
Let’s take a look at the things you will need to consider.
Your will needs to appoint the person or people who will deal with ‘probate’ once you have passed away.
Ideally, you will choose both initial executors, and substitute(s) in case your first executor(s) can not act.
Read more about Executors >
If any money or assets need to be held after your estate has been dealt with (for example on behalf of beneficiaries who are under 18) then you will need trustees as well as executors. They can be the same people.
What’s the difference between an Executor and a Trustee? >
If you have children under 18 it is important to appoint Guardians in your will. This is a really big decision. Ideally, this would be people other than your executors or trustees. A guardian appointment will only ever apply if BOTH legal parents have passed – ie if there is a surviving parent then the appointment in the will is simply disregarded.
How to choose a Guardian >
Cash legacies are fixed sums of money that you can leave in your will. They are usually ‘token gestures’ rather than any significant proportion of your estate.
You do not have to have cash legacies if you don’t want.
What is a cash legacy? >
Personal items (often known as personal chattels) are often best dealt with in a letter of wishes. If you have items of significant value then it is perhaps best to include those particular gifts in the will. The benefit of using a letter of wishes is that it is simply guidance for your executors and can be easily changed without fear of it being legally valid (unlike your will).
What is a letter of wishes? >
The residue of your estate (residuary estate) is basically anything else that has not been dealt with above (in chattels or legacies etc). It is usually dealt with by splitting things into percentage shares. For example:-
“ I GIVE the whole of my estate to my wife JOSEPHINE BLOGGS”
Learn more about residuary estate >
What is a Letter of Wishes?
This is separate to your will, and can give very helpful guidance to your executors, trustees, and even guardians. It must not seek to be legal binding (that is the job of your will), nor should it contradict the will.
Read more about Letters of Wishes >
DIY wills are perhaps playing with fire, but your family wont know until you die!
Should I list my assets in my Will?
Almost certainly not, no you should not list your assets in your will. Nor should you (ideally) gift specific cash assets – eg “my bank account with Natwest Bank”. It is generally considered much safer to deal with your residuary estate in percentage terms. Then, whatever comprises your estate at the time of your death is ‘realised’ and split in the percentage terms your will sets out. Banks etc can change names and you may more money during your lifetime. That being so, if you have gifted say a particular bank account, but you don’t have it when you die, then the gift to that person would obviously fail. BUT, if you included that same person as a percentage ‘residuary beneficiary’ they would inherit whether that account exists or not as you have not mentioned specific assets.
Can I leave things on trust in my will?
We do anything in life that we are not trained or qualified to do and we run a greater risk of things going wrong. It is so easy to miss something, or word something incorrectly in a DIY will, and all of a sudden the cost of having employed a specialist wills solicitor to have drafted it for you seems like small fry! So, if you want to delve into the realms things to be held on trust, you really are starting to play with fire unless you have specialist knowledge on how to draft and administer trusts.
Will Trusts >
How do I sign my Will?
Whoever prepares your will, the critical thing is how it is signed and witnessed. You must, sign it in front of two independent witnesses, who must then sign in front of you and of each other.
How to sign a will >
Who can witness my Will?
Your witnesses must be:-
- Sound mind
- Independent – ie not in any way associated with the will
Why should I use a Wills Solicitor?
For most of us our wills can be simple, and one or perhaps two sides of A4 paper. And so, it is easy for someone to then ask why should I bother paying a solicitor? As a wills and probate solicitor, I have written thousands of wills, and administered hundreds of estates (‘probate’).
The value that a specialist wills solicitor gives is not so much the final will, as much as it is helping you make all of the right decisions in that will. Who should I choose as executor? Can my executor by a trustee? Can my executors also be guardians of my children? It is these and other questions that a specialist solicitor will help you make the right decisions on.
How much does a will cost with a solicitor?
At QLAW we charge £250 (+ VAT) for a simple single will, reducing to just £175 (+VAT) each where you make a mirror will each as a couple.
It’s not an insignificant amount of money, but just put it into context. How much does a care service cost, or your home insurance, or a big shop, or Christmas, or holidays. Get your will wrong and you leave a mess of your loved ones. If your DIY is deemed t have failed, you then die intestate (ie with no will) and then the law decides who gets what.
Or worse still, say part of your DIY will is unclear and someone challenges it. All of a sudden the £250 on a proper will seems like small fry! Remember that if you use a proper solicitor they will be regulated by the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority), fully insured, and your beneficiaries would have access to not just the SRA but also the Legal Ombudsman if it turned out that the prepared by the wills solicitor was wrong.
FREE WILLS ADVICE
Want to talk about how our expert wills solicitors can help – reach out! You can leave a comment below, email wills@QLAW.co.uk, or call 03300 020 365
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