How To Write Your Own Will And Should You?

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Writing a Will is often on everybody’s to-do list, but it usually keeps getting put off. If you’re young and healthy, it’s seen as something you only need to do when you’re older. And if you are older, its delay is often caused by having something else to do, or it might just seem too depressing to think about. But your Will is an important document whenever you write it, saving your friends and family stress and heartache during a difficult time after your death. Many people look into how to write a Will themselves, usually because it’s seen as a quick, easy, and cheap alternative to using the professional services of a specialist solicitor. While this article looks at how to write a Will yourself, it also gives you important information on whether you even should.

What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that declares your wishes on what happens to your money, property, and belongings (your ‘assets’), and how you want them to be distributed to anyone you’ve named as a benefactor, after your death. You can also name your executors (those who will deal with your estate) and who you wish to be guardians of your children (if under 18). 

A properly written Will can give protection, not only of your assets and entire estate, but to your spouse, children, and benefactors, after your death. By formally and legally outlining your intentions on what should happen in the future regarding your estate, it ensures you have the final say and no one can override, change, or ignore your wishes.

Is having a Will important?

Having a Will is important whether you know how to write a Will or not. It doesn’t matter whether or not you think you have much money or your possessions are too few to give much thought to. Having a legally binding document that reflects your final wishes is essential. Here are some key reasons why having a Will is important:

  • If you don’t have a Will, intestacy rules mean that decisions on how your estate – your possessions and money – is distributed will be made without consent and are unlikely to reflect what you want. 
  • If you and your partner are unmarried or aren’t in a civil partnership, your partner cannot inherit anything you leave to them without a Will. This could lead to financial or other problems.
  • If you’re a parent with children under 18 (minors), a Will allows you to specify any arrangements over who looks after them if you, your partner, or you both, die.
  • Having a Will can also mean any Inheritance Tax payable might be reduced if you seek professional advice and put one in place.
  • You can change or amend your Will as often as you like to reflect any changing circumstances in your life. In the process, any previous Will becomes invalid.

Many of these issues highlight some of the complexities involved in writing a Will. So if you’re unsure of how to write a Will properly, or if you’re in any doubt about planning for a Will, working with estate specialists like MJR Solicitors will certainly help you.

The pros and cons of a DIY Will

A DIY Will is exactly what you think it is. It’s a Will you write yourself, by using an online Will writing service or completing a Will pack by hand, rather than having an experienced solicitor write it for you. Writing your Will this way is popular and provides you with standard templates and resources, aiming to make the process as simple as possible for you.

For a lot of people, a DIY Will seems like an attractive proposition. It’s cost-effective, and it gets the job done. But while that might be true, there are plenty of downsides to writing a DIY Will as well. Here are a few pros and cons of DIY Wills:

Pros

✔︎ It’s a cheap, or even free, way to write your Will

✔︎ It’s easy to complete

✔︎ Online and paper documents are widely available

✔︎ Completing a DIY Will can be done quickly

✔︎ It will provide enough detail for small estates

Cons

✘ Mistakes or errors can easily be made, meaning DIY Wills can be invalid

✘ Mistakes can add significant delays to probate

✘ Errors can cause financial or other problems for your family

✘ It can cost more in the long run to correct any mistakes

✘ They still require legal witness(es)

✘ Not enough detail for larger or more complicated estates

✘ There can be a risk of legal challenges

This is just a small selection of cons for a DIY Will. If you’re thinking about a DIY Will, you probably won’t know how to write a Will properly like a qualified solicitor with plenty of specialist experience will. Though their fee may seem high, when you’re planning for a Will, you’re paying for their skill, expertise, and legal knowledge – and your peace of mind.

What must be included in a Will

The best thing about having a legal Will is that it can contain everything you want to include, with details about your wishes, what you want to leave, and who to. But you must also include, and be sure of, certain things to make it valid, enforceable, and legally binding, including:

  • In writing: A Will is a legally-binding, physical document and must be made, completed, and signed in writing
  • Named executors: Up to four chosen people will act on your behalf to distribute your estate and ensure your wishes are followed.
  • Guardians: If you have children, you can choose who you want to be as their legal guardians if they’re under 18.
  • Assets: You should include any or all possessions, money, and property, who you wish to be a benefactor, and how much you leave some or all of it to.
  • Final wishes: You can add any special instructions or final wishes that must be carried out.
  • Witnesses: When signing your Will, it must be witnessed by any two people aged 18 or over who aren’t a beneficiary.
  • Mental capacity: You must have the mental capacity to make decisions yourself and without pressure from anyone else.

The steps in writing your own Will

If you’re convinced you know how to write a Will yourself, then there are certain steps you need to take and information you need to include. Here are the basic steps needed to take to make sure your Will is completed correctly.

Value your estate

You can get a good idea of what your estate is worth in total by adding up the value of all your assets and any outstanding debts: This list can include:

  • Properties you own
  • Money or savings in bank or building society accounts
  • Insurance policies or pension funds
  • Sticks or shares or investment trusts
  • Cars or other vehicles
  • Personal belongings, including jewellery
  • Other belongings and household contents
  • Any mortgage(s) debt
  • Any credit card or overdraft debt
  • Any personal loan debt

The value of investments, property, or insurance/pension policies can fluctuate and change over time, so update this list regularly.

Say how you want your estate distributed

Writing down who gets what after your death and how you want your estate divided can be difficult. But the main objective is to decide who you want as your benefactor(s) and whether you want to leave any specific items or gifts to any particular people. 

After that, you should think about anything that might be left over in your estate and who or where that might go. Also, be mindful of any benefactors who may die before you and what you want to happen in that situation.

Choose your executors

Your executors are the people you choose who will deal with your estate on your behalf. They’ll ensure it’s distributed as per your wishes, get all your affairs in order after your death, and act in your best interests. 

You can choose up to four executors, usually close family members or friends, who can be anyone over the age of 18 and of sound mind, but who isn’t bankrupt or in prison. As your choice(s) may not have been an executor before, it’s also common to choose a professional as well, such as a solicitor. 

Choose your witnesses

When you sign your Will, you need it witnessed by two independent people who are aged 18 or over. You can choose anyone to be a witness as long as they are not named beneficiaries, spouses or partners, or anyone who doesn’t have mental capacity.

Signing your Will

The final step is to sign and date your will. This must be done in the presence of your two independent witnesses for it to be legally valid and enforceable.

Storing your Will

Once everything is completed, signed, and witnessed, you must ensure your Will is safely stored. You can store it at home, but many choose the safety of a bank or solicitor who will have safe storage. Wherever your Will is stored, you must tell your executors where this is.

Revisions and updates to your Will

Once you’ve written your Will, you should always review it every few years to allow for any relevant updates or to change it completely, depending on your circumstances. You must never attempt to modify your original Will, and any minor changes should be done using a codicil – an addition or separate supplement that modifies your Will or part of it. If you want to make bigger changes, you must make a new Will that overrides and cancels the previous one.

Minor (codicil) Will changes can include:

  • Changing the amount of a cash gift
  • Changing executor(s)
  • Changing parental guardians
  • Changing your final wishes

Your codicil changes must be signed, dated, and witnessed in the usual way – although your witnesses can differ from your original witnesses as long as they meet the criteria – and kept in safe storage alongside your original Will.

Major Will changes can include:

  • Changing your beneficiaries
  • Removing any beneficiaries
  • Making more than one or two codicil changes

Changes to your Will, big or small, are where complications can start. Although it’s possible to make codicil changes to your DIY Will, the legalities and consequences of your changes need to be considered and confirmed. This is where the legal experience of a specialist solicitor like MJR Solicitors can help you.

The importance of using a solicitor

DIY Wills can do a basic job if you’re not sure how to write a Will. But using a solicitor to write your Will for you can make sure it’s done properly and complies with all legal requirements. Here are some reasons why using a professional is to your benefit. Your solicitor will:

  • Ask the right questions: Your Will can get complicated with many practical and legal issues to understand. Asking the right questions ensures nothing is missed.
  • Draft your Will properly: As a legal document, your Will must meet certain requirements that you may be unsure of. If not properly drafted, your Will could be invalid or open to challenge.
  • Understand your complexities: Complicated finances or family structures can add to the difficulty of writing your own Will. A solicitor will understand these and draft your Will accordingly.
  • Fulfil your estate planning: Solicitors can cover all your estate planning, including Inheritance Tax, probate, and Power of Attorney, which you may not have considered.
  • Supply safe storage: Your Will is an important document, and storing it with your solicitor will ensure it’s safe and protected at all times.

If you’re not sure how to write a Will, any of these issues can make a complicated process even harder. A Will should be created with care and consideration, following all the required rules and procedures, and only an expert solicitor can do that for you.

How to write a Will with MJR Solicitors 

This guide will give you an idea of how to write your Will but also highlight how important it is to use a professional solicitor. With a range of affordable fees, our experienced team at MJR Solicitors can help you, giving you all the legal advice you need – without the legal jargon – on your Will and any estate planning or administration matters.

Contact us today and leave a message, call us on 01243 945 054, or email us at info@mjrsolicitors.co.uk, and we’ll be on hand to help you with everything you need.

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Mark Riley

Mark Riley is a specialist lawyer offering services in Criminal Law and Professional Misconduct Cases. Mark has studied around the world, including time in Australia. Whilst there he met many amazing and inspirational lawyers. Mark is a passionate advocate and can be found in Courts up and down the Country having practised in Magistrates' Courts, Crown Courts and various Tribunals.
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