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Steps to making a will

It is not expensive to make a Will – the cost is usually around £80. Although DIY Will forms may seem a good idea, it is far better to go to a solicitor to get professional advice.

1. Choose a solicitor:

If you do not know a solicitor; ask a friend or the Law Society to recommend law firms and then call around to compare their prices.If you need help finding an adviser, the websites of both the Law Society (www.lawsociety.org.uk) or Society of Trust and Estate Professionals (STEP) (www.step.org) offer lists of members.

2. Meet your solicitor:

Once you have a solicitor, but before you make an appointment, follow the steps below.The more informed you are in advance, the quicker it will be to draw up your Will and the less money you will spend on legal fees.

3. Work out the value of what you own

You may wish to use the checklist below to work out the total sum of your property, money and possessions (this is your estate). Click on the link to open and save the Asset List form:

Asset list

4. Decide ‘who gets what’

Write down the names and addresses of all the people (including organisations/charities) to whom you wish to leave money or gifts.Those who stand to benefit are called ‘beneficiaries’.

5. Choose your Executors

An executor is a person you appoint to carry out the instructions in your Will. As he or she is responsible for administering your estate, it should be someone who you trust to act quickly, efficiently and tactfully. Executors can be friends, relations or professionals and they can also be beneficiaries of the Will. There are four factors to consider when choosing Executors:-

Location. Choosing someone a long way away is not a good idea.

Age. Try not to choose someone much older than you

Willingness Is the person going to be willing to do this for you?

Capacity If your estate is complicated or may involve tax issues, is this person capable of carrying out your wishes?

You can appoint up to four executors, and it makes good sense to appoint at least two in case one is unable to act for you. Most people appoint a family member and a professional.

Remember that if you appoint a professional they may charge a fee which will be deducted from the value of your estate.

6. Keep your Will safe

Most people ask their solicitor or bank manager to look after their Will, as well as keeping a copy themselves. It is wise to tell your executors where they can find the original.

7. Remember the “shelf-life” of your Will

A Will is not – and never should be – a “once and for all” document. It must be regularly checked to make sure it accurately reflects your current circumstances. You should certainly review it every time you have a major family event e.g. a marriage or divorce, a birth or death or you move house.

If you remarry, you need to make a new Will. MARRIAGE IS THE ONLY THING WHICH CANCELS ANY EXISTING WILL.

A common scenario:-

Mr and Mrs Jones have been married for 15 years.They own their home in their joint names. They have two children aged 8 and 12.

They make Wills leaving everything to each other and then to the children.

Sadly, they divorce and, as part of the divorce settlement, Mrs Jones takes the house and the children continue to live with her.

Two years later, Mrs Jones remarries. Her new husband moves in with her and the children. She does not change her Will.

A year later, Mrs Jones dies.Her husband evicts the children from “his house” and he inherits all Mrs Jones’ savings and her personal belongings.

Mr Jones has to go to Court to protect the rights of his children and reclaim their inheritance.

All because Mrs Jones did not make a new Will!

If you do need to make minor changes to your Will i.e. leaving a legacy to a worthwhile charity like the Road Victims Trust, you can usually do so very easily by adding a ‘codicil’ – an addition to your existing Will. It should be drawn up by your solicitor.

If the changes to your Will are major, it may be a good idea to write a new one. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on this.

Instructions for my executors, family and friends

You may wish to use the form below to provide relevant information to executors, family and friends. You should click the link below to download and save the form, completing the details that are relevant and adding other information you would like others to take into account when you die. The document should be stored in a secure but easily accessible place and you should let someone else know where it is. We suggest you look at it every year, to ensure that the details are still up-to-date.

Instructions for family & friends