Making a will – what you need to know


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What is a will?

A last will and testament is a document outlining what happens to your estate after you die. Your estate is all your money, property, possessions and any debt you have.

Why do I need a will?

A will lets you decide what happens to your estate. If you die without a legal and valid will, all your money and possessions will be given away according to Intestacy Laws.

This means that if you don’t have a will, your estate might not be given to the people you want to inherit from you. For example, unmarried partners have no right to inherit anything if there is no will.

Can I write my will myself?

You can write your own will. You will need to get it formally witnessed and signed for it to be legally valid.

However, if your will isn’t straightforward, if your estate has lots of property and possessions, or if your situation is unusual for any reason, you should get legal advice. This includes if you live with a partner who isn’t your husband, wife or civil partner, or if you have property abroad.

A solicitor will be able to make sure everything in your will is correct and legally valid.

What’s included in a will?

A will should cover:

  • Who will receive money, property or possessions
  • Who will take care of any children under 18
  • Who your executor or executors are (they will manage the estate and make sure your wishes are followed)
  • What happens if the people you want to inherit from you die before you

When is a will not legally valid?

If you’re writing your will, be aware that for it to be valid, the following must be true:

  • You must be 18 years old or older
  • You must be writing the will voluntarily and with sound mind
  • The will must be in writing
  • You must sign the will in the presence of two witnesses who are also 18 or over
  • The two witnesses must also sign the will in your presence

You also cannot leave anything to your witnesses in your will, or their married partners. Be aware of this when choosing two witnesses.

Where should I keep my will?

Once you have made your will and it has been signed and witnessed, it’s important to keep it in a safe place. You might also want to let your loved ones know where they can find it when the time comes.

You can keep a will at home with other important documents, with a solicitor or bank, or with Probate Service.

Find out more about choosing an executor or changing your will.