Making a Will

It can be hard to think about making a Will. Often it will be emotionally challenging and loved ones may find it difficult to talk about. However, it can be comforting to know that making a will is one way of planning for the future and making sure that your loved ones are provided for.

What is a Will?

A Will is a legally binding document which enables you to instruct who gets your property, possessions and money after your death. This is known as your estate. For many people, having a valid will can be reassuring as it means that you have made provision for the people and causes you care about the most.

Writing a Will involves specifying what assets you have (such as property, valuables and savings), choosing who you want them to go to (the beneficiaries, e.g. family, friends and charities), how they will be allocated and the person(s) you want to carry out the allocation (the executors).

Why would I want to make a Will?

You do not have to make a Will, but there are a number of reasons you might want to make a Will:

  • to decide what you want to happen with your assets after you die: if you don't have a Will, the 'intestacy' rules will apply which determine who should benefit from your estate
  • to name a guardian for your child: appointing a guardian ensures that a person you choose will care for your child in the event of your death. If you have children who are under 18, and you don't name a guardian for them, the court will appoint one
  • to leave something to a partner (who you are not married to) or a close friend after you die: you may want to do this as the law does not automatically recognise cohabitants as having the same rights as family or married spouses - no matter how long you have lived together
  • to settle possible disputes that might occur between family members or friends over your belongings: making a Will can ensure that your loved ones won't have to think of how to divide your belongings amongst themselves
  • to give something to a cause or charity you really care about after your death
  • to leave instructions about your funeral, burial or cremation: thinking of leaving such instructions can be distressing, but it could make it a lot easier for your relatives and friends who will already be going though a process of bereavement after you pass away.
  • You may wish to donate your body to science: if you want to help research into brain tumour after your death, you can leave instructions about gathering tumour samples which will be used to help researchers understand their development. Speak to us and to your health team if this is something you are interested in doing (The Brain Tumour Charity Support & Info Line - 0808 800 0004 or

How do I make, or update a Will?

There are a number of things to do in order to make a Will:

Decide who will write your Will

You, your solicitor, or a professional will writer can write your Will. However, a solicitor is the most suitable professional to write your will, even though this option might be more expensive. Without the help of an expert, you run the risk of making mistakes that can be difficult for the Will to be carried out in the future.

Make a complete list of everything you own

Your 'estate' refers to everything you own (including property, personal valuables, cars, bank accounts, insurance policies etc.) minus any debts. You should make a list of everything you own and everything that's in your name and their value. Sine thing may not have any monetary value, but have sentimental value, that you particularly want to leave to someone and these should also be listed.

List those who you will remember in your Will

At this stage you will decide who receives something in your Will. This is entirely up to you and it could be anyone, including family, friends and charities.

Choose an executor

It is wise to have at least two executors in case one of them is unable to perform their duties for any reason. An executor is important because they will be the person(s) carrying out your wishes as outlined in your Will. For this reason executors should be people you trust. You can ask a solicitor to act as your executor.

Updating a Will

Even if you already have a Will, you may want to review it if it was made some time ago. If your circumstances have changed, for example, if you got married or if a grandchild has been born since you made your Will, it may be inadequate.

You can make amendments using a document called a codicil. Like the original will, apart from a list of amendments, the codicil will have to be signed by you and two other independent witnesses (they don't have to be the same witnesses as in your original will). A codicil can be a complex document so you might want to seek legal advice before writing one.

Signing and storing a Will

To be valid, a will must be signed by the person making the Will in the presence of two independent witnesses who also sign in his/her presence. There are a number of rules about signing a Will, including that witnesses cannot benefit from a Will and nor can their married partners. Often the staff at a solicitors office will act as witnesses of the Will if they have prepared it.

Once a Will is signed it must be kept in a safe place and you should tell someone you trust where it is. Sometimes Wills are stored at a solicitor's office in a safe.

How much does it cost to make a Will

Wills can cost anywhere between £200 - 1000 depending on the complexity of your affairs. If you don't already have a solicitor in mind, it's a good idea to research Will writing costs. If you don't already have a solicitor in mind, it's a good idea to research Will writing costs. There are a number of charities that provide a Will writing service for free, but because Will writing is time consuming and usually expensive, you might want to make a donation.

Gifts and inheritance tax

As of 2015, if your estate (everything you own) is valued over £325,000, a percentage may have to go to the government in the form of inheritance tax. Any amount over £325,000 is taxable at a rate of 40%. Generally, assets left to spouses or civil partners are exempt from inheritance tax, as are gifts to charity.

Page last reviewed: 12/2015

Next review date: 12/2018

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