Most people die without drafting a Will, leaving behind significant financial issues for your loved ones and forcing the law (as per the law of intestacy1) to dictate who’ll inherit your assets. Worryingly, according to research by the University of Warwick, more than half of adults in the UK don’t have a Will.
Here’s an interesting fact:
Many procrastinate in Will writing, thinking they’ll have enough time to draw it when they’re older, only to end up subjecting their families in financial strain and court procedures in the long run.
So, what does Will writing involve? What are the Will writing costs and where should you store your Will2? Here’s a comprehensive guide to walk you through everything you should know about making a Will.
How Do You Write A Will?
A Will is a legal document that stipulates your wishes in regards to the distribution of your property and the care of minor kids (if you have any).
You can create a valid Will on any sheet of paper and follow any format, as long as you and witnesses sign it by unbiased parties, as required by the law.
If you don’t follow the format, then the Will can be deemed as invalid, or one with conflicting instructions and can be challenged in court, which can lead to family conflict and inflict stress and hefty expenses on your family. So, you have to ensure that you’re careful when writing it.
When you’re planning on doing it yourself, you can try seeking professional Will writing advice from an expert who’ll help you understand everything you need to know about Will writing.
What Happens if You Don’t Draw Up A Will?
Well, this depends on where you reside in the UK. However, some things are mostly the same, no matter where you are. Therefore, if you don’t draw up a Will, you’ll die intestate’, and your property might not go to the people you want. There are unique rules and regulations for how your estate will be distributed, the intestacy rules.
Let’s take a look,
- These rules include:
- If you have a spouse or civil partner and kids, they’ll inherit all your possessions and at least the first 250,000 of your property, plus half the rest. Your kids will then be qualified to the other half of the residue.
- If you have a spouse, civil partner but don’t have any kids, your spouse and partner will be eligible to inherit your entire estate, including your assets.
- If you and your partner aren’t hitched or in a civil partnership, and you haven’t drawn up a Will, they have no right to inherit from your property. That applies even if you’ve resided together for a long time or have kids together.
- If you have kids and your spouse or civil partner is deceased, your kids will inherit everything, but they’ll have to divide everything equally amongst themselves.
- If you don’t have a civil partner, spouse or kids, then your parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, cousins and nephews might inherit your estate
What’s more, not making estate distribution plans in advance will subject your assets to the hefty inheritance tax3 implications. Moreover, based on where you reside, if you don’t have any close relatives at all, then all your assets and property will go to the Crown or the UK government.
What Does A Will Do?
Essentially, a Will does three things:
- It explains who you’d want to sort out your property and assets when you pass away (executors)
- It can also give detailed instructions on how you want your funeral to be conducted
- It can also dictate who’ll receive what from your estate (as well as guidelines for ‘special’ bequests4, like small personal items)
Moreover, Will writing offers you several benefits which include:
- It’s a useful tool in managing the amount of inheritance tax you’ll have to pay to the government on your estate when you pass on
- It also allows you to make special requests and incorporate charitable donations
- It ensures that you make provisions for your dependents
- It safeguards your property from those you don’t want to inherit your assets like an estranged spouse or civil partner
- It makes sure that your heirs’ inheritance is secured against any hostile creditors if it’s necessary
- It allows you to make provisions for your pets
- It allows you to incorporate your funeral wishes to make sure that your loved ones are aware of your demands
- It ensures that your treasured assets are valued
- It enables you to name any sentimental pieces in your Will that you have in mind for a particular beneficiary
How Does One Make A Will?
Well, you have options: you can DIY it (you can purchase a Will kit from newsagents or through the internet), hire a solicitor, or a Will writing service. Most solicitors have a Will writing department, and if you have a family lawyer, that’d be the ideal option for you.
If you’re, however, making a Will and you have an illness or dementia, you can have an attorney, through the Power of Attorney, sign it on your behalf. Nonetheless, you’ll have to be in the room and have it signed in your direction.
According to the UK laws on estate planning, you can’t draw a Will if you don’t have enough mental capacity. If you do, it’ll be rendered invalid. Your solicitor will have to make sure of this, and you might also require a medical specialist’s statement at the time the Will is signed, certifying that you comprehend what you’re signing.
Any Will that’s signed on your behalf must also have a clause that says you understand the details on the Will before it was signed.
Who Need to Be Involved in Will Writing?
You might need your wishes to be private, and you might also prefer them to be known in advance to avert confusion. Who you notify about the process is entirely up to you, but the executors6 (those who’ll help you in the execution of the instructions of the Will when you die), don’t need to know the details in advance, and neither do the witnesses you choose. If truth be told, most witnesses are members of staff in a Will writing service or a solicitor’s office. The most vital thing is that you draw up a valid Will.
After you’ve signed and it’s been certified you should keep a copy. You can also ask any of the Will writers or solicitors you involved to have a copy and – the most critical part – share the information about where you’ll store the Will with at least one person (preferably, the one you trust).
If your family or executor can’t find or prove the existence of the Will when you die, then your estate might be divided in conflict with your wishes.
Where Should You Store Your Will?
It’s essential to keep your Will in a safe place and inform your executors where they can find it after you die. If you hired a solicitor to help you write it, then most will usually store the original copy for free, while you get the duplicate.
If you, however, use a Will writing service, they’ll also offer to store it for you, but unlike a solicitor, they might charge an extra fee for storage. Moreover, you might be less secure than if you keep it with a solicitor. For instance, if the Will writer went out of business, it might be challenging to locate them so it’d be wise if you kept a copy to yourself.
You could also opt to keep the original copy of your Will at your home office or safe, but there’s always a risk that it might be thrown away, damaged, or even stolen.
Alternatively, you can choose to store it with the Will and Probate Service7 in England and Wales. You’ll, however, be charged a £20 fee to do this, but withdrawing it is free. In Northern Ireland, you can deposit with the Probate Office, but for a fee of £33. As for Scotland, no court storage facilities are offered, and most Will are stored privately.
Do Wills Need Updating?
Yes, they do. You should update yours when you have a significant change in circumstances or when there’s something you’d want to add or stipulate more wishes that you didn’t include previously. For instance, if you happen to get married or divorced, you should update your Will to ensure that it effectively reflects your new circumstances.
If someone you also named in the Will passes away, then you should ensure that you update your wishes as soon as it’s practical to do so.
You can make these small changes by including a note referred to as the Codicil. You also have to ensure that you sign and have it witnessed.
However, if you make any bigger changes, then it’d be more sensible to draw up a new Will and destroy the previous one to avoid any confusion.
What’s the Cost of Making A Will?
Well, this answer depends on how complicated your affairs are if you’re using a Trust and if the solicitor you wish to help you id based in your county. Some of the most common Will writing costs in the UK include:
For a simple Will – drawing this one up can cost you about £150 to £250. Therefore, shopping around for a more cost-effective solicitor could save you hundreds
For a complex Will – this can cost you between £150 to £300. It might be complicated due to circumstances such as divorce or you have kids
For a specialist Will – this involves Trusts or overseas assets (offshore companies and trusts), or you want tax planning advice. Therefore, you can expect to pay a minimum of £500 to about £600
A mirror Wills – they cost less than if you choose to write them for yourself. Mirror wills are worth considering if you and your spouse or civil partner want substantively the same (mirror) Wills.
Best of all,
When shopping around, you should also ensure that the cost you’re offered also includes VAT.
How Much Does Will Writing Cost?
Well, Will writing in the UK can cost you a couple of bucks. For instance, if you need a simple Will, you might have to pay the solicitor between £145 and £250. Therefore, it’s best if you considered shopping around to find someone who’s excellent for the lower price rate since they can save you up to £100.
A complex Will can typically cost between £200 and £500, depending on the solicitor.
Is A Handwritten Will Valid in the UK?
Yes, it’s possible for a handwritten Will to be considered legally binding in England and Wales, as long as it’s been properly drafted and It meets the legal requirements.
Handwritten Will are referred to as ‘holograph’ Will, and from a legal perspective, they have to execute it according to the provisions of Section 9 of Wills Act 1837.
How Does One Write A Will for Free in the UK?
Well, you can write a Will by yourself, but you also need to seek advice from a solicitor. Well, to write a Will for free in the UK, you need to
- First value your assets – figure out how much your estate is worth through drawing up a list of your assets and debts. Assets include your house, cars, premium bonds, antiques, furniture, among others
- Decide how you want to divide your assets and property – this includes the person you want to benefit from the Will if you’re going to offer gifts to specific persons and where the residue of your estate will go
- You might also decide to leave a donation to a charity foundation
- Select your executors
- Write your Will – for it to be free, you have to do it yourself since lawyers and banks request a pay
- Sign your Will – you have to sign it in front of two independent witnesses for it to be considered legally valid
Are Online Wills Legal in the UK?
Well, for a Will to considered legally valid in England and Wales, you have to sign the Will in the presence of two witnesses. The witnesses also have to sign the Will in your company, and you can’t do that online.
Even for future benefits, you need to have a physical document to be signed and witnessed.
Drawing up a Will doesn’t have to be complicated. As long as you’re aware and understand the Will writing laws, and seek professional help where necessary, it can go smoothly, and save your family the financial and emotional turmoil when you pass away.