Making a will
If you want to control what happens to your estate after you die, it’s vital to have an up-to-date will in place.
Otherwise, your assets will be divided according to intestacy rules, which could mean your loved ones are left without support.
Fortunately, the process can be quite straightforward, and there are plenty of services that will help guide you.
- Are you making a will? Which Wills? can help you do-it-yourself, or create one on your behalf - visit Which Wills to find out more.
How do I make a will?
If you're planning to write a will, you can choose whether to do it yourself or seek help from a professional.
The right option for you will depend on how complex your affairs are, and how much assistance you'd like.
Find out more: What to put in your will
DIY - Writing your own will
It’s possible to go it alone when writing a will, and many people choose to take the DIY route rather than seek professional assistance.
That said, if your situation is complex, seeking professional advice can be a good idea, as it’s very easy to make a mistake that could make your will invalid or ambiguous.
If you do decide to make a DIY will, it’s crucial to make sure the original version is signed by witnesses, and free from errors or changes.
In England and Wales, you must have two witnesses over 18, while in Scotland, you require one over 16. Witnesses cannot be named as executors of your will, or inherit anything as beneficiaries.
Don’t leave blank spaces, and make sure each page is numbered.
It’s possible to have self-written wills reviewed by a professional to make sure everything is in order. There will be a fee for this, but it’ll be cheaper than having the whole document created professionally.
Getting a solicitor to write your will
A solicitor who can write the document for you, and make sure everything is in order.
This will be the most expensive option, but it could potentially save your family on an inheritance bill, and certainly provide peace of mind.
The main benefit of using a lawyer is you can discuss exactly what you want the will to achieve – and they’ll be able to ask the right questions to avoid ambiguities.
It’s worth considering a lawyer if any of the following applies:
- Your estate will probably have to pay inheritance tax. At the moment, this means your assets are worth more than £325,000.
- Your family’s circumstances are complicated – perhaps you have former partners, or children from a previous marriage
- You have a family member, or friend, with special needs, that you’d like to be sure is protected after you’ve gone
- You have assets that could be subject to complex rules, such as overseas property.
In addition to writing the will, a solicitor will usually store it for you for free.
Solicitors are qualified and regulated, so you or your dependents will be able to seek compensation if problems arise with the will. The regulating bodies depend on where you live:
- In England and Wales - the Solicitors Regulation Authority
- In Scotland - the Scottish Law Society
- In Northern Ireland - the Northern Ireland Law Society.
Expect to pay a few hundred pounds to hire a lawyer to write your will. The exact cost will depend on the complexity of your affairs.
If your estate is quite complex, a good lawyer might be able to help you consider putting assets into trust. The legal fees will probably be higher these cases, but will trusts could significantly cut your estate’s inheritance tax bill.
Using a will-writing service
If you don't want to pay for a solicitor, but would like some guidance, you could consider using a will-writing service.
You’ll get more help than if you do it yourself, and it will be cheaper than instructing a lawyer. This option is best if your circumstances are relatively straightforward - more complex cases may require a solicitor's expertise.
Not all will writers are qualified or regulated, so it’s a good to make sure they’re a member of a recognised trade body, such as the Institute of Professional Will Writers, or the Society of Will Writers. Members of these bodies will have indemnity insurance, up to at least £2m, so you’ll have recourse if something goes wrong.
Beware free will-writing services, or companies that insist on the sole right to execute your will after you pass away. In some cases, companies may then later charge expensive fees to administer probate.
Will-writing services start at around £80, and will rise to a few hundred pounds in some cases. The cost will depend on the complexity of your estate, and the expertise of the company you hire.
It’s a good idea to seek a few quotes. If one company is much cheaper or more expensive than the others, ask yourself why this is.
- Which? Wills offers a wills-writing service to help guide you through the process
Using a bank's will-writing service
It’s quite common for banks to offer will-writing services. These services are often offered for under £100, or even free, but you might later find you’ll pay through the nose in hidden charges.
It’s particularly important to look for clauses that give the will-writing company the right to administer your estate, and charge fees for doing so.
Even with relatively straightforward estates, you might be charged a high percentage of the estate, perhaps 5% to act as sole or joint executor. These charges will still apply if the estate is very straightforward, or if most of the probate work is done by someone else.
If your bank won’t allow you to appoint your own executor within the will writing service, it may be best to look elsewhere.
How much does a will cost?
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 written at the same time.
If you want a more specialist will - for example, one that includes trusts - the cost goes up. You could 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 (dying without a will).
Be sure to tell your executors where your will is stored.
Most solicitors store wills for free if you made the will through them. Will writers often charge a one-off or annual fee.
- Which? Wills offers a wills storage service