Making a will is one of the most important things you can do to protect both your own estate and the people you leave behind. If you die without making a will, the Law of Intestacy clearly stipulates who will receive your estate, depending on whether you are married or not and if you have children, parents, siblings or other relatives still alive when you die. What the law decides might be against your own wishes.

By making a will you will benefit by:

  • having your say in exactly who will receive your money; for example, if you live with your partner but aren’t married and die without making a will, your partner will not automatically inherit any of your estate
  • being able to appoint guardians to look after your children if they are under 18 years of age
  • ensuring Inheritance Tax is kept to a minimum
  • choosing your own executors
  • leaving specific items and/or sums to money to individuals.

Use a solicitor to help make your will

You could write your own will, but we don’t recommend you do this without legal assistance. Homemade wills are unregulated and don’t offer consumer protection. On the other hand, if you use a solicitor, you are protected if something goes wrong as solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Solicitors also have professional indemnity insurance and codes of practice they must adhere to.

Other reasons to use a solicitor

  • Solicitors are trained professionals and will ensure that your will is legally binding and protected.
  • The law surrounding inheritance (including Inheritance Tax, long-term care planning and Trusts) is complicated. Solicitors will be familiar with the law and able to help you make the most effective choices.
  • It’s important to ensure that a will is witnessed and dated correctly, or your will won’t be valid when you die. There are also rules around which witnesses you can use. Using a solicitor should reduce the risk of these issues arising in the future.
  • Your will should be stored safely. If a solicitor helps you write your will, they can usually store the original for you in a fireproof safe free of charge. There are consequences to your will being invalid, damaged or lost and could result in significant tax implications or your estate passing to someone who you would otherwise not wish to receive it.

Top tips when preparing your will

A lot of people think that preparing a will is simply a case of listing beneficiaries, but there is a lot more to it. Here are some points to set you off in the right direction.

  • Consider who you want your assets to go to when you die. This may be a single person, such as your partner, but with ‘blended families’ becoming more common, make sure you are clear about who you want to be a beneficiary, so you don’t accidentally miss someone important.
  • Beneficiaries needn’t necessarily be the people closest to you. You have the right to choose who receives part or all of your estate. Perhaps you wish to leave something to a charity (in which case quote the charity number to avoid any confusion), or to a friend who has been a pivotal part of your life.
  • Also, name your beneficiaries, rather than say, for example, ‘leave it all in equal parts to my children’. You could inadvertently omit any step-children.
  • Remember to update your will if, for example, more grandchildren are born.
  • Property, savings and investments are the most likely assets you will want to hand on, but don’t forget about smaller items you own. Do you have personal items, such as a much-loved piece of jewellery, that you would like a specific person to receive? And what about the dog or cat? Is there someone in particular that you would like to look after any pets you may have?
  • Rather than automatically divide your investment equally between beneficiaries, consider if you have already given some money or other assets to one beneficiary as you may wish to rectify the balance in your will. To avoid any conflict after your death, you may want to record this.

Once you have written your will, make your wishes known to your family so that you can explain the reasons for your decisions. There is an increase in challenges to wills because the outcome isn’t always as expected and some family members might disagree with the contents of the will. It will make for a much easier and peaceful time in the future.

Related pages

  • Katharine House Hospice relies of the generosity of our supporters to maintain the services that we run. Leaving a gift in your will to Katharine House Hospice (registered charity number: 297099) is one of the most valuable ways you can make a difference to families facing an incurable illness. Read our article on how to leave a lasting legacy.
  • Lasting Power of Attorney: ensure you have these important legal documents set up in good time and while you are able to make your own decisions.

The EPiC Resource Centre is kindly sponsored by Cleenol: working for a cleaner, safer, kinder world.