Once you have completed all the preparations for making your Will, you are ready to have the document drawn up. This page tells you what you need to do.
On this page:
- Choosing someone to write your Will
- What to Include
- Choosing executors
- Requirements for a valid Will
- Signing and witnessing the Will
Although it is possible to write your own Will, this is generally not advisable as there are various legal formalities that must be followed to ensure that the Will is valid. Without an expert's help, there is a risk that you could make a mistake that could cause problems for your family and friends after your death.
In certain circumstances it is particularly advisable to seek legal advice. These include:
- You have joint ownership of property with someone who is not your husband, wife or civil partner.
- You own a business.
- You have several family members who could make a claim on your estate because they are financially dependent on you.
- Your permanent home is not in the United Kingdom.
- You are not a British citizen.
- You are resident here but also own assets overseas.
- The value of your estate is above the nil-rate band and you wish to minimise your inheritance tax liability.
If you do choose to write your own Will you should still have it checked by a professional to ensure that you haven't overlooked anything. For further information see our section on Before you make your Will.
Here are a few of the points to consider when deciding what to include in your Will.
- Who do you want to leave your assets to when you die?
- How do you want to divide your property between your loved ones, friends or favourite charities?
- Are there any conditions you want to attach to these gifts such as your children / grandchildren having to reach a certain age before they inherit their share of your estate?
- Do you wish to establish a trust? Trusts provide a way of providing for children under 18 as well as reducing inheritance tax.
- Do you have any particular wishes for your funeral?
- Do you want to be buried or cremated?
- Who do you wish to appoint as legal guardian for your children?
You must also name the people you wish to appoint as 'executors' of your Will. Executors are the people who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes and for sorting out your estate when you die. They will need to collect all the assets of the estate, deal with all the paperwork and pay any debts, taxes, funeral expenses and administration costs out of money in the estate. They will then be responsible for transferring any legacies to the beneficiaries named in your Will.
It is important to choose the people you appoint as executors with considerable care since their job involves a great deal of work and responsibility. You should always approach anyone that you are thinking of appointing as an executor to see if they are willing to take on the responsibility. If someone is appointed who is not willing to be an executor, they have the right to refuse. The people you could choose to act as executors could be friends, family members, or a professional such as your solicitor. While it is permissible to appoint one executor, it is always recommended that you appoint more than one in case one should pass away. A good combination would be a friend or family member and a professional. Ideally, you should choose someone who is familiar with financial matters.
Make sure your executors are happy to take on this duty as there are long-term responsibilities involved, particularly if you include a trust in your Will. It is a good idea to ask someone younger than you are. If an executor dies, any other surviving executor(s) can deal with the estate. If there are no surviving executors, legal advice should be sought.
When Making a Will in order for it to be legally valid, it must be:
- Made in writing by a person who is at least 18 years old.
- Made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person.
- Made by a person who is of sound mind. This means the person must be fully aware of the nature of the document being written or signed and aware of the property and the identity of the people who may inherit.
- Signed by the person making the Will (the 'testator') in the presence of two witnesses.
- Signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the testator, after s/he has signed it. A witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a Will. If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married partner or civil partner of a beneficiary), the Will is still valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the Will.
Although it will be legally valid even if it is not dated, it is advisable to ensure that the Will also includes the date on which it is signed. As soon as the Will is signed and witnessed, it is complete. For more information, see our page Avoiding the Pitfalls.
It is possible to run into difficulties when drafting a Will which is why it is advisable to have a professional do it. Further information on who is eligible to write a Will can be found on the page Who can make a Will?
Once the Will has been drawn up, it is not effective until it has been signed in the presence of two witnesses. The witnesses are required to confirm the signing is completed by you and without any pressure from anyone else. The witnesses do not have to read the Will, and any clauses in the Will can be covered over with a sheet of paper if required. There are several rules regarding this process, which, if not followed correctly, will make your Will invalid. In order to make sure that the Will is signed and witnessed in the correct manner you should ensure that:
- You and two adult witnesses are all present in the same room before any signing begins.
- Both witnesses should be eighteen years old or over.
- You sign first followed by each witness.
- The witnesses are likely to be traceable if required when you die.
- The witness is not blind.
- The witness is capable of understanding what they are doing.
- The witnesses are not beneficiaries of the Will.
- Each witness signs with his/her usual signature, followed by his/her printed name, address and occupation.
- No one leaves the room before the signing is complete.
Once your Will has been written, signed and witnessed, you will need to store it in a safe place. For more information on this, see our page Storing your Will.