The short answer is yes, there is no law against creating a will yourself. It’s just very important you know what you’re doing if you decide to create your will solo. Compiling one yourself can be confusing, and for most situations, it’s advisable to seek help from an experienced solicitor. That being said, the decision is yours and if you’d rather take care of things on your own there’s nothing to stop you from doing so. There are just a number of pitfalls you need to take into account which a solicitor will already be aware of and experienced in. Our advice below will give you a clearer idea of what is needed and how a solicitor can assist you further to make sure everything is accurate and correct.
What is a will?
Think of a will as a legal document that sets out your wishes once you die. Things like the distribution of any cash, properties and other assets. On top of that, it can also cover things like the care of your children if they’re underage, funeral preferences and the details of who you’d like to benefit from the will.
Creating a will leaves nothing to chance: you’re able to explicitly state how you want things to play out upon your death. If a will isn’t created, it’s up to the courts or your family to distribute your assets and belongings, which often leads to family disagreements and tension. Not only that, but with the right planning, you may be able to reduce the tax liabilities of the beneficiaries of your will if you plan ahead and seek expert advice.
How do I create a will?
Let’s take a look at the steps you’ll need to follow to create your will:
Step 1 – Value your estate: Draw up a list of all your assets to begin with. This will include things like property you own, cash in the bank, investments, stocks, pension funds, jewellery and furniture. Anything that belongs to you falls into this category.
Next, you’ll need to make a list of your debts. Things like loans, mortgages, credit card balances.
Step 2 – Decide how you want your estate to be divided: It’s important to make it abundantly clear who stands to gain what from your estate. Will property go to your children? Jewellery to the grandchildren? Cash to a charity you like? Think about any and every aspect of your estate, and try to make sure every last belonging is taken care of.
Step 3 – Charitable causes (if any): If you plan on leaving a part of your estate to charity, you’ll need to make sure this is made clear too. You’ll need to include the charity’s full name, address and charity number. If you miss anything, there is a chance that your charity of choice won’t receive your donation, so double and triple-check that you’ve filled in the necessary details.
Step 4 – Appoint your executor(s): these are the people who deal with and distribute your estate in the event of your death. It’s important to pick people you trust, people who will honour your wishes and carry out your requests exactly.
Step 5 – Write your will: If you’re deciding to write your will yourself, this is where things can get tricky. You’ll need to make sure the will has been written properly, signed correctly and the relevant parties notified.
Step 6 – Sign your will: You’ll need 2 witnesses when you sign the will, and they can’t be a beneficiary of the will, married to a beneficiary of the will or visually impaired.
Step 7 – Store your will: You can store your will at home if you’d like, though we’d advise you to leave it with a bank, a solicitor or the probate office. Your executors need to know where the will is kept, so keep that in mind too.
What are the benefits of having help from a solicitor?
If your will is straightforward, sometimes it can feel like it makes sense to write your own. If you’re leaving a few pieces of sentimental jewellery, for example but even then there are some pitfalls you need to be aware of to avoid. And if you’ve got a larger amount of assets to distribute, and multiple beneficiaries to leave those assets to, things can start to get even more complex. Here are some of the key benefits of using a solicitor to help you with your will:
Keep things clear and concise: If you have multiple assets, and multiple beneficiaries, an experienced solicitor will help you explicitly state who is entitled to what. It can help prevent disagreements within the family, and it means that the people and causes you care about will be able to directly benefit from your assets – just as you’d always planned.
Helps to prevent mistakes: Legal documents, guidelines and rules can be tricky. A good solicitor will have written a thousand and one wills before, and they’ll have a clear idea of all of the fine details. This will prevent costly mistakes (which would otherwise need to be paid for from your estate), save time and keep things clear for everyone involved.
Advice on being tax efficient: Instead of taking a stab in the dark, a solicitor can help you make tax-smart decisions that see your beneficiaries enjoy more of your estate, rather than the taxman. They’ll use their experience to advise you on the best course of action to take, and they’ll tailor that advice to your personal situation.
Offer recommendations: It can be tough to decide who gets what from your will. If you pick the right solicitor, they’ll have seen lots of cases like yours, and will be able to use their best judgement to help you make the right decision. Of course, the final decision will always be yours, but it doesn’t hurt to have expert guidance from legal professionals who have vast amounts of experience in creating wills.
Your will is stored safely: If a solicitor writes your will on your behalf, they’ll usually store the will in their offices where it’ll be kept safe and secure. They’ll also be fully regulated, meaning that if for whatever reason there were any issues with the will, the liability would fall on them rather than yourself.
We hope this guide has given you more of an idea of what a will is, how they work and why it’s within your best interests to have one. Wills are a great way of distributing your assets to the people and causes you care about, and if done correctly, they’ll fulfil your wishes whilst helping out the people you love.
If you’d like help with your will, or have any questions that you’d like to run through, we’re more than happy to help. You can get in touch with us here to discuss further. We have a wealth of experience in wills and will work with you to make the process as simple as possible.