At Rocket Lawyer UK, we’ve helped to answer over 10,000 legal questions from our members since 2012. From doing some analysis we’ve managed to pick out some common issues that businesses and individuals face. This Ask a lawyer blog series will feature step-by-step instructions to help you solve some of these common legal issues, such as tenant eviction, dismissing your employee, business compliance and more!
In ‘Ask a lawyer: How do I make a will’, I’ll set out some practical steps and tips for you.
Step 1: Value your estate
Make a list of all assets that you own. These can include:
- your home
- any other property
- money and savings
- shares and investments
- business equity
- cars, jewellery and other personal possessions
- any digital assets
Debts and liabilities should then be deducted from this amount, to establish the total value of the estate. Deductions which can be made include:
- mortgage debt
- any outstanding bills
- credit card balances
- funeral expenses
Step 2: Identify heirs and decide how you want to split your estate
Once you have an idea on the value of your estate and what assets you own, you should decide how to split it among your beneficiaries.
Your beneficiaries are who will benefit from your will. Normally, people name their spouses, partners, siblings and children as primary beneficiaries. However you may want to make provisions for other individuals or organisations (such as charities). You will need to clearly identify these beneficiaries so that there is no ambiguity.
When dividing your estate you may want to state specific percentages such as, for example, your spouse receives 50% and your children receive the rest equally.
Step 3: Choose your executors
An executor (or executrix) is someone who carries out the administrative duties and tasks in making sure the testator’s wishes are followed according to the will. This person sorts out the property when the testator dies, pays any inheritance tax due and applies for probate. You can have up to four executors in your will and they can also be beneficiaries to the will (ie they can also inherit something from the will).
It’s important to appoint someone you trust as an executor as it’ll be up to them to follow the instructions according to the will. When you’ve confirmed who your executor is going to be, it’s important you record their full name and address in your will. The executor will need to be located and contacted when they are needed to fulfil their duties.
For further information read Elements of a will.
Step 4: Write your will
You can create your Last will and testament with Rocket Lawyer for free in 30 minutes.
Follow our simple step-by-step interview and have your will created in 30 minutes.
However we understand that there are more complex situations, especially if you have children or complex wishes. If you’re unsure, Ask a lawyer for further advice.
Step 5: Sign your will
For a will to be valid:
- it must be in writing, signed by you, and witnessed by two people
- you must have mental capacity to make the will and understand the effect it will have
- you must have made the will voluntarily and without pressure from anyone else
In the presence of your two witnesses and in the spaces provided, you should:
- date the document (eg ‘the 6th day of June 2012’)
- sign your name using your ‘usual’ signature where indicated whilst your witnesses watch
- ask your two witnesses to add, in your presence, their ‘usual’ signatures where indicated, asking them to print their names, addresses and occupations clearly for identification purposes
For further information read Executing your will.
Step 6: Store your will safely
Making a will is a crucial part of protecting your estate and ensuring that assets are divided amongst beneficiaries as intended. But keeping a will safe is as important as making sure it is written effectively. If a will is lost or damaged, the executors may not be able to distribute assets according to the wishes of the deceased and may have to revert to the rules of intestacy.
You can store your will with your solicitors, bank, safely stored at home or with the Probate Service.
To wrap up…
Writing a will is important and ensures that if anything happens, your family and assets are protected. If you die without creating a will, then the rules of intestacy apply. For further information read Intestacy rules. Therefore it’s important you understand the process and make a will. Ask a lawyer if you need further assistance with making a will.