Guide to Making a Will

What is a Will? A Will is a legal document containing your instructions and wishes for your property and belongings after your death. It typically specifies how you would like your estate (assets, property and possessions) to be distributed and to whom (the beneficiaries) after you die. It may also include other important instructions such […]

What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document containing your instructions and wishes for your property and belongings after your death. It typically specifies how you would like your estate (assets, property and possessions) to be distributed and to whom (the beneficiaries) after you die. It may also include other important instructions such as appointing guardians for your children (or pets).
When you ‘make a Will’ –
you are laying down your wishes in a formal legal document in a clear and unambiguous manner, so that your wishes can be actioned in the way you would like them to be, after your death. A Will saves your loved ones time and energy at a time when they are naturally bereaved, helping matters to run smoother and faster.

Why do I need a Will?
If you have assets, property or possessions of any significant value (either financial or sentimental value) then you need a Will in order to ensure that these are distributed to the people you wish to have them after your days. You may also have other wishes that you would like actioned following your death, and a Will is the best way to formally ensure that those wishes are followed.

What happens if I die without a will?
If you die without having made a Will you are said to have died intestate. If you die intestate, you leave your loved ones with a lot more work to do at a time when they are grieving for their loss. If you die intestate the UK probate laws will ultimately decide who receives what from your estate. The decisions will be made for you, not by you, and it is highly likely that your wishes will not be met. It is even possible that persons that you would not have wanted to inherit anything from you receive more than those for whom you would have wanted to provide had you made a Will. For instance, probate law does not recognise common law partners, and therefore a common law partner would not legally be entitled to anything even if they had lived together for many years.

Does a solicitor needs to make my Will for it to be legally valid?
No. A solicitor does not need to sign or witness your Will. This is a common misconception and there are now numerous companies, such as Abbey Broadway who specialise in offering a professional Will writing service far more cost effectively than solicitors. There are rules regarding who can witness a Will and full details will be provided to all of our clients once the Will has been drafted.

Can’t I just write my own Will myself? Why do I need help?
You can write your own Will, but if you do you risk getting it wrong, costing time, trouble and further heartache to your loved ones. There are certain procedures to follow when writing and signing / witnessing a Will which we will ensure are adhered to.

The major risks of writing your own Will and getting it wrong are :
a) Producing a Will that is not sufficiently clear under the law and is open to challenge. This may mean your wishes are overruled.
b) A Will that is not produced under the correct procedures could be declared totally invalid.

Most people are very pleasantly surprised to learn just how inexpensive it is to employ a professional Will writing service like the one we offer here at Abbey Broadway, where you can obtain a professionally written, legally binding Will for less than £100.

Can I use your service to write a Codicil?
A codicil is a document that amends rather than replaces a previously executed Will. However, our usual advice is that it’s usually far easier, where your previous Will was made under the laws of England and Wales, to simply make a new Will which will contain a clause automatically revoking (i.e. cancelling) your previous Will.

Can anyone make a Will?
In order to make a Will you must :
•Be at least 18 years old.
•Have the mental capacity to do so i.e. be of ‘sound mind’.
•Know, at least to some degree, the extent of your estate i.e. know what you own, and therefore what you wish to distribute.
•Know who you wish to be the beneficiaries of your Will.

Is there anything I cannot leave in my Will?
Yes. Some things will cease to be ‘owned’ by you when you die :
•You may own a property as ‘joint tenants’. In this case, on your death, the proportion of the property you owned is automatically passed to the other party with whom you shared ownership.
•The same may be the case with a joint bank account. You should contact your bank to find out on what legal basis the account is shared.
•Death in service benefit. This is a financial benefit paid out by your employer on your death. Your Will does not / cannot cover this, so you should contact your employer to make arrangements and stipulate who is to receive this.
•Your pension rights. These are usually already assigned to somebody. You should contact your pension provider to check.
•A life insurance policy that is already written in trust to a beneficiary. You should contact your life insurance policy provider if you have any doubt whether a policy of yours is written in such as way.
•Property that is outside of England and Wales.

The above list is not exhaustive. If any of the items are included in your Will the Will is still valid, but these items will be crossed out.

What do I do if I want to leave people out of my Will?
Making a Will means you are representing your wishes for who should benefit from your estate (assets, property and possessions) when you die. In order to leave someone out of your Will you simply do not include them or mention them as a beneficiary. We also recommend that you write a separate letter explaining what you have done and why, so that this letter could be read out in court if the Will is ever challenged.

It is important to be aware, however, that you do provide for all people who are financially dependant upon you, and if you don’t your Will could be challenged under “The Inheritance (Provisions for Dependents) Act 1975” and therefore likely to be subject to change. This is rarely an issue, as most people naturally do wish to provide for those who are dependant upon them within their Will.

Is my Will valid in all countries?
The Will’s we write are designed to be valid in England and Wales as a first priority. However, they are also likely to be valid in some other countries as well, by default. Please be sure to let us know if you need your Will to specifically be valid in another country and we will be able to advise you accordingly.

Can I use my Will to stop the Local Authorities taking my house to pay care costs?
Yes you can. This is a complicated legal area, so please discuss this with us so that we can decide how best this could be achieved in your particular circumstances.

How long is my Will valid for?
The answer to this is ‘indefinitely’. The Will’s we produce remain legally valid until they are ‘revoked’ (cancelled), and this can happen in one of the following ways.
1) If you get married or enter into a civil partnership, your existing Will is automatically revoked. If this happens, all you need to do is reprint the Will and re-sign / witness it as before (using your new name if applicable). This would only be the case if your Will is to remain unchanged, of course, and at the point of getting married you may well wish to alter / update your Will or obtain mirror Wills with your new spouse.
2) If you make another will or re-write your existing Will. All our Wills contain a clause revoking all previous Wills you may have made or deem to have made under the laws of England and Wales.
3) If you intentionally destroy a pre-existing Will. It is important to note that if your will has not been revoked, but it cannot be found, then you will be deemed to have died intestate (died without a Will). Our Will and Document Storage and Retrieval Service helps to prevent against this.

What if a beneficiary of my Will dies before I do?
If a beneficiary(ies) of your Will dies before you there are various rules which are applied :
•If you have left them a gift (‘legacy’) and not named a ‘substitute beneficiary’ for that gift / legacy, then it will automatically fall into your ‘residuary estate’. Your ‘residuary estate’ is any portion of your estate that is not specifically left to a named person/s in the Will, or property that is part of such a specific legacy that fails for some reason. So for example, if you leave a gift to someone who dies before you and you have not stated who should have it instead then that gift would fail and it would return to the remainder or your estate (the residue).
•Your Will may identify the beneficiary of your residuary estate through a residuary clause or residuary bequest. If the beneficiary who has died before you stood to receive a share of your residuary estate and you have not named a substitue beneficiary for that share of the residuary estate, then it goes to the other beneficiaries named to receive a share of your residuary estate in the same pro rata proportions as they were originally deemed to receive.
•If the deceased beneficiary stood to receive all of your residuary estate and you have not specified a substitute(s) then your residuary estate is distributed according to the laws of intestacy. It is possible to specify different levels of substitute beneficiaries to avoid the likelihood of intestacy law coming into play and to ensure your wishes are followed.

What are Mirror Wills and when could this type of Will be applicable to me?
Mirror Wills are a pair of almost identical Wills. They are commonly used for married couples or partners with shared property where some of the key aspects of the Will are shared. If both parties want to appoint the same Executors and Guardians, and you are want to leave your Residuary Estate to the same people, then it is easier and more cost effective to write ‘Mirror Wills’.
See our pricing page to compare the price of 2 single Wills versus a pair of Mirror Wills
However if you do not want to appoint the same Executors and Guardians and / or do not want to leave your Residuary Estate to the same people after you have both died; then you are in fact making two single Wills.

Can an Executor of my Will be a Beneficiary?
Yes, an Executor of your Will can be a Beneficiary. In fact it makes sense to appoint the major Beneficiary of your Will as the Executor(s). This is because an Executor with the added interest of being a major Beneficiary is likely to work more efficiently to carry out the terms of your Will.

Note, an Executor of a Will must be at least 18 years of age, so if the major Beneficiary is not 18 they cannot be an Executor.

Can I appoint Guardians for my children in my Will?
Yes. One of the advantages, and often the main reason why some people write a Will, is that it allows you to legally appoint a Guardian(s) for your children should you die before they reach the age of 18. It is a little known, but important fact, that failure to appoint Guardians within your Will means that should you (and your spouse / partner) die and leave children without parents, the laws of intestacy will decide who the children go to – which will not necessarily (in some circumstances) be a close family member.

Also, in the event of a couple (married or not) with step children from a previous relationship, a family could be split apart if your wishes have not been formalised before your death. We make the process of appointing Guardians in your Will straightforward. Please do not hesitate to ask us for further details on this important subject matter.

How do I ensure that my Children are provider for in my Will?
We know your children are important to you, and we make the process of ensuring they are provided for easy for you. When you leave anyone under 18 a gift / legacy, or part of your Residuary Estate, we can setup the following clauses for you :
The inheritance goes into Trust, and is managed by your appointed Executors. We take care of setting up the Trust for you.
The appointed Executors are given the power to use any part or all of the inheritance for the ‘education, maintenance and benefit’ of the ‘under-age’ Beneficiary, as and when they see fit. The Executor can simply give money from the inheritance held in Trust to the parent or appointed Guardian(s) of the ‘under-age’ Beneficiary, to be spent on their ‘Education, maintenance and benefit’.
When the ‘under-age’ Beneficiary is old enough to inherit, the Executor simply passes them whatever is left in their inheritance as if they were a normal Beneficiary of the Will.
** Note, an Executor may also be given the right to invest any inheritance that is not spent straight away in any way they see fit. Or you may wish to specify how the inheritance is invested.