Finding out how to get a will is a major step towards ensuring that your estate is distributed amongst the people and groups you care about.
Let’s face it, no-one wants to think about dying, but there is no getting around it. Getting your estate in order will help make the process of probate much easier for your loved ones when you have passed away.
Reasons for making a will
Making a will helps to ensure that any dependants you leave behind are looked after. But it’s worth making a will even if you have no dependants. Why? Because chances are you will have a bank account to close and a credit card to be cancelled, amongst other things.
Also, funeral arrangements will need to be made – the cost of which may need to be taken out of your estate. And these arrangements will need to be undertaken by someone.
Finding out how to get a will gives you peace of mind that your estate will be taken care of when you die.
Things to prepare beforehand
One of the first things you will need to do is value your estate. You will need a list of all of your assets and any outstanding debts. The gov.uk website gives a description of the types of assets that need to be taken into consideration.
Create a filing system that is easy to follow. Don’t store files on a computer or hard disk if your executor is not computer literate. Remember: what is obvious to you might not be to your executor, so bear this in mind.
Once you have valued the estate and you have a list of assets, you will need to decide who will benefit in the event of your death. This is known as estate division.
When dividing your estate, it’s often better to use percentage terms rather than absolute values. This will take into account any changes in the value of your assets that may need to be sold, such as property or stocks and shares.
When thinking about how to get a will, this is an important step. Be absolutely clear about what you want. Any complexity will make the task of probate more difficult for your executors, so keep it as simple as possible. You will also need to specify what to do if you outlive any of your beneficiaries.
If you want to leave a donation to charity, make sure you have the correct name, address and charity number.
Be sure to make provision for funeral expenses, the cost of administration and any outstanding debts and taxes.
Appoint an executor
The executor will be responsible for the distribution and organisation of your estate. This is a big responsibility, so think carefully about who you appoint. You can appoint someone who will be a beneficiary in the event of your death.
It’s a good idea to appoint an executor who is in good health and, if possible, younger than you. This will future-proof your will because they are more likely to outlive you.
Speak to the potential executor before drafting your will. They may decide that they don’t want to do it, so have a shortlist just in case.
Making the will
This can be done through one of three different methods:
Using a solicitor
Using a solicitor is the most common and arguably safest method when thinking about how to get a will. This is because they are legal professionals specifically trained to write this type of legal document. They are also aware of any possibly legal pitfalls and can advise you accordingly.
Of the three options presented here, this is the only one that incurs a charge. The cost of making a will through a solicitor varies depending on the complexity of your arrangements and the size of your estate. Expect to pay anything from £200 to as much as £1000. It’s a good idea to discuss price at the beginning of the process.
Using a charity
Some charities offer a free will writing service in a bid to encourage you to make a charitable donation. This is worth thinking about if you are planning to donate to a specific charity. You can get more information about this from Will Aid.
Writing it yourself
If your instructions regarding estate division are relatively simple then you could write the will yourself. This is becoming increasingly popular. But bear in mind that a will is a legal document. Any mistakes could make it invalid. Its a good idea to get get legal advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau before making a decision.
You will must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses. You can store it at home, with a solicitor or with the Probate Service. Be sure to let your executors know where the will is stored.
It’s important to update your will immediately should your circumstances change, and it’s good practice to update it every 4-5 years.
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