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:

  • 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 tumours 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

When writing your Will, it's important for it to be completed and witnessed in the right way. If it isn't prepared, structured and signed correctly, it could be invalid. The best way to get it right is by using a professional Will writer or solicitor. And it doesn't have to be costly or complex - there are free and discounted Will writing services available to help our supporters.

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. Some things 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.

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 normally cost anywhere between £200 - 1000 depending on the complexity of your affairs. But there are services available to help our supporters with this.

As a sember of the National Free Wills Network, we are now offering free Will writing services to the people we support, regardless of age. This is a quick and easy way to write or update your Will by a law firm local to you. To find out more, please contact our Information and Support Line on 0808 800 0004 or, or get in touch with us online via Live Chat

If you would rather write a Will in the comfort of your own home, there is also a discounted Will writing service through the Goodwill Partnership. A trained counsellor will come at a time convenient to you, or they can take your instructions over the phone. Find out more information, please visit their website.

In both these cases, there is absolutely no obligation to include us in your Will.

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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