Writing a will How to make a will
It's very common for people to invest in professional help when making a will, although it is possible to write your own.
Here, we explore the pros and cons of all the available options when creating a will.
Can I make my own will?
It is possible to make a will without professional assistance, and many people do so successfully, but it is also very easy to make a mistake when writing the will or signing it, which can render it invalid or ambiguous.
If you do decide to make a DIY will, make sure the copy you sign and have witnessed is a free from errors and alterations. Number each page and do not leave any blank spaces.
Go further: What to put in your will - this guide explains the key decisions that need to be included in your will
Using a solicitor to make a will
A solicitor will help you make a will, and can store it for you, normally free of charge. The main benefit of going to a solicitor is that you can discuss face to face what you want the will to achieve.
In addition, solicitors are qualified and regulated:
- In England and Wales this is through the Solicitors Regulation Authority
- In Scotland, it is through the Scottish Law Society
- In Northern Ireland, this is through the Northern Ireland Law Society
If something goes wrong, you or your dependants have access to redress through the relevant body's complaints service and compensation fund.
Using a will writing company to make a will
Will writers are an alternative to solicitors, but unlike solicitors they don’t have to be qualified or regulated. So, if you use one, make sure he or she is a member of a recognised trade body such as the Institute of Professional Willwriters or the Society of Will Writers.
Both bodies have codes of practice that require members to reach certain minimum standards and have indemnity insurance of at least £2 million.
A will-writer may sometimes suggest that their firm is appointed as a sole or joint executor. This could mean that substantial sums end up being paid to them even when the estate is relatively straight forward to deal with. As with solicitors, it is preferable to appoint lay executors who can engage professionals to assist with probate if required.
Using a bank to make a will
Another alternative is to use a bank to make a will. If you do, be aware that they have high charges for performing the role of sole or joint executor, often a percentage of the value of the estate (anything up to 5%) - regardless of how complex the estate actually is to deal with.
Instead of this you can ask to appoint a trusted friend or relative who could then choose whether to involve a professional. Not all banks permit this, however, so check carefully before you go ahead.
Online will writing services
Finally, you may want the speed and convenience of an online will writing service. An important feature to check here is the legal guidance you will receive, if you have a problem. Ascertain whether the people you are speaking to are qualified solicitors.
Which? Legal Service has recently launched an online service, Which? Wills. The fixed charge for a single will is £89 and £149 for a pair.
The cost of making a will
Whether you go to a solicitor, will writer, or bank, simple wills start from about £80 and go up to several hundred pounds. If you and a spouse or partner want substantively the same (mirror) wills, the costs are usually less. if you have them made at the same time.
If you want a more specialist will that deals with, say, trusts, the cost goes up – expect to pay a minimum of £500 to £600.
Where can I store my will?
Once you have made a will, you have to decide where to store it. The original signed and witnessed will must be produced when you die, otherwise your assets are treated as if you died intestate.
Most solicitors store wills for free if you made the will through them. Will writers often charge a one off or annual fee. Be sure to tell your executors where your will is stored.
For more information on writing a will, see our book Wills and Probate.