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How to make a Last will and testament

A will sets out how someone's estate, which includes property, savings and other assets, should be distributed after their death. It is essentially a written set of instructions specifying who will inherit the estate of the deceased (the beneficiaries) and who will ensure that assets are distributed according to the wishes contained in the will (the executors).

Put your mind at ease with this straightforward last will and testament that will name executors to make sure everything is properly dealt with and appoint guardians to take care of your children. Making a will can be a difficult process but it can give you peace of mind that everything will be taken care of according to your wishes should the worst happen. This last will and testament covers appointing executors, guardians for your children, legacies and what will happen to the rest of your estate.

For use in England and Wales only.

Use this will:

  • if you are over the age of 18

This last will and testament covers:

  • leaving what you own to your spouse or civil partner, and then to your children or other beneficiaries in equal shares
  • leaving specific gifts (including amounts of money and digital assets) to your loved ones
  • appointing a guardian for your children

Without a legally valid will, your estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy, an old-fashioned set of instructions that specify a strict order of beneficiaries; primarily married or civil partners and close relatives.

If you lived with a partner for many years but were not married or in a civil partnership, without a will they may not stand to inherit anything if you die intestate (without making a will). So it's important to make a will to ensure that you have a say in what happens to your estate after your death.

In general, any will that you made before getting married to a new partner will be revoked upon marriage and therefore be invalid. However, there is an exception to this rule: if your will states that you are about to get married and confirms that you intend the will to remain valid after marriage, it will not be revoked.

If you have any children under the age of 18, you may want to consider appointing testamentary guardians in your will. Guardians take over parental responsibility for your children, which means they need to look after your children as well as take decisions about things like their education or religious upbringing.

Find out more about appointing a guardian.

Yes. You can go into as much or as little detail as you choose. You can specify that certain assets are given to individuals (eg your house is inherited by your daughter and your car by your nephew, or that your savings are divided equally between your children, wife and a charity).

Yes. You can leave digital assets (ie assets that exist in a digital format) using a will. You can specify which digital assets you wish to leave in your will and to whom such assets are being left. You can also choose to set out instructions regarding the handling of any digital assets left in your will. This is done in a memorandum of digital assets.

The remainder or residue of your estate refers to what is left of your estate following the distribution of specific gifts and deduction of debts, taxes and other expenses. If you have not made any specific gifts, the residue will make up your entire estate (after debts, taxes and expenses).

You can state funeral arrangements in your will (eg whether you would like to be buried or cremated) but it's important to note that these wishes are not legally binding. It is nevertheless useful to express these wishes in your will, but normally your relatives will decide on funeral arrangements, and executors have the ultimate say.

Your will should name one or more executors (often family members or close friends), who will be tasked with carrying out your instructions and distributing your estate according to the will. An executor can also be a beneficiary.

The signature of wills must be witnessed by at least two people who will not benefit under the will (either directly or via their married or civil partners). A witness can also be an executor, as long as they (or their wife or civil partner) are not named as a beneficiary.

You do not need a lawyer to prepare a legally binding will. As long as you are of sound mind and not being unduly influenced when you make your will, state how you wish your estate to be distributed upon your death, name the beneficiaries and executors, and sign your will in the presence of witnesses, it should normally be legally valid. However, if you have a more complex estate, it will often be advisable to Ask a Lawyer to check things over.

In order to make a minor change to a will (such as changing the name of an executor), you can use a document called a codicil, which needs to be witnessed in the same way as when making a will. If you are making more substantial changes, you should consider making a brand new will, which states that your previous wills are revoked.

For more information, read Codicils. You can make a codicil using our Codicil template.

Ask a lawyer if:

  • you own any foreign property as it may be subject to the inheritance laws of that other country
  • you want to leave your estate to named beneficiaries in unequal shares
  • you are based outside of England and Wales

You may want to Ask a Lawyer for advice on inheritance tax If you have:

  • personal assets valued at over £325,000 or if your combined assets with your spouse or civil partner are valued at over £650,000
  • business interests, including shares in a private company or if you are in a business partnership

Other names for Last will and testament