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Solicitor Will Writing Guide

Making a Will with a solicitor is the most common way of doing it, and usually the most expensive way. But knowing it’s been done properly can save a lot of stress for those you leave behind, and give you peace of mind.

Why you need a Will

It’s important to make sure that after you die, your assets and possessions (collectively known as your estate) go to the people and organisations (known as your beneficiaries) you choose. This may include family members and charities you want to support.

Your estate includes your personal possessions, as well as assets such as:

  • Property (in the UK and overseas).
  • Savings and investments.
  • Insurance funds.
  • Pension funds.

If you die without a valid Will, it may be difficult for your family to sort out your affairs. Your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy. Under the intestacy rules, only married partners, civil partners, and certain close relatives can inherit your estate. If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership, your partner won’t have the right to inherit, even if you’re living together.

How to make a Will

Start by making a list of the assets you want to include in your Will. Then decide how you want them shared among your beneficiaries.

It’s possible to use a professional Will writing service to make your Will, but they aren’t qualified solicitors and may not be regulated. You can also make your own Will, but it’s easy to make mistakes or miss out important details. While it may seem like the best option now, it could cause costly legal problems for your executors and beneficiaries further down the line, so it’s normally better to get professional advice.

Once you’ve decided how to allocate your assets and to whom, you need to codify this by writing it into your official Will. The beginning of any Will should state that you revoke all previous Wills. Any prior Wills should be destroyed. Although undated Wills are still legally valid, it is advisable to ensure that the Will also includes the date on which it was signed.

If you want to leave a donation to a charity, you must include the charity’s full name, address, and it’s registered charity number.

In order for a Will to be valid, it must be:

  • Made by a person who is 18 years old or over.
  • Made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person.
  • Made by a person who is of sound mind.
  • In writing.
  • Signed by the person making the Will in the presence of two witnesses.
  • Signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the Will, after they have signed it.

A witness, or the married or civil partner of a witness, cannot benefit from the Will. If this is the case, the Will is still valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the Will.

Making a Will with a solicitor

Your Will needs to state clearly how you want your estate to be distributed, and who should be responsible for distributing it. When making a will with a solicitor, they will need to know:

  • Your assets and what they’re worth, as well as any debts you have.
  • All the assets you want to include in your Will.
  • Details of who should have these assets after you die.
  • Any other wishes, such as the type of funeral you want.
  • Details of any children and family members, including adopted or step-children.
  • Who you want to benefit from your Will.
  • Whether you want to give any specific gifts to particular people.
  • Where the residuary estate is to go (any property or money left over).
  • What you want to happen if any of your beneficiaries die before you.
  • Whether you want to leave any money to charity.

Save time and money by thinking about what you want your Will to include before visiting your solicitor. You may also want to speak to your family about your intentions.

Why use a solicitor?

You can make your Will yourself, but you should only consider this if your Will is straightforward. If you do make your own Will, you should still get a solicitor to check it over. Making a Will without using a solicitor can result in mistakes or something not being clear, especially if you have several beneficiaries or your finances are complicated. Any mistakes would have to be sorted out by your executor and they may have to pay legal costs, reducing the amount of money in your estate. Mistakes in your Will could even make it invalid.

What are executors

Executors are legally responsible for dealing with someone’s estate after their death. It can involve a lot of work and responsibility, so it’s important to choose your executor(s) carefully. When choosing who to appoint, you should talk to them to check if they understand what’s involved and that they’re happy to do it. An executor can also be a professional person, such as your solicitor.

After you’ve made your Will

After making your Will it is advisable to review it regularly, such as every five years. You should also review and update your Will to reflect any changes in your life, such as:

  • Marriages.
  • Divorces.
  • Births.
  • Buying property.
  • If your wealth significantly changes.

If you want to make a minor change to your Will, you can add a supplement known as a codicil. This must be signed and witnesses in the same way as the Will, although it doesn’t have to be the same witnesses. If you want to make a major change, you should make a new Will and cancel your old one.

You must let your executors know where your Will is kept. You need to store it in a place where it won’t be lost or damaged and can be easily located following your death. People typically leave their Wills with a solicitor, bank, a Will writing service, or with a local Probate Service. You can choose to leave your Will at home being aware of the risk of it being damaged or destroyed.

Find your local Probate Service using the directory on GOV.UK

Destroying a Will

Revoking a Will means that the Will is no longer legally valid. If you want to revoke a Will, you must destroy it with the clear intention that it is revoked. You must destroy the Will yourself or in your presence. Although a Will can be revoked by destruction, it’s always advisable that a new Will should contain a clause revoking all previous Wills and codicils.