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Making a will: four dos and three don’ts

Tips for writing a will that won’t make life difficult for your loved ones

Making a will: four dos and three don’ts

One in seven executors expect to run into issues when dealing with the deceased’s estate, new research has found.

Exizent, a platform for managing the bereavement process, has created a new Bereavement Index, which gathers insights from all those involved in the process, including the recently bereaved, financial institutions and legal firms.

Its research found nine in 10 of those who’d administered the estate after someone died found the process stressful. Worryingly, two in five saw their mental health decline.

So, how can people make executorship less of a burden on their loved ones? One way is by making a will.

Here, Which? sets out what to do – and what not to do – to ensure your will makes the process of administering an estate easier for your executors.

  • Are you making a will? If you want support, you can make your will and have it reviewed by Which? Wills, and until 30 April 2021 it’s half price.


DO:

Think carefully before choosing an executor

Distributing someone’s estate can be stressful and time-consuming.

That’s why it’s important to appoint a responsible executor. It can be helpful if they’re good at handling legal issues as well.

Most people choose from their friends and family. It’s best to appoint more than one executor or an executor and a substitute.

Do keep executors in the loop

One in seven executors only found out about their role after the person who appointed them died, Exizent discovered.

Exizent also found that many people aren’t aware of what the role involves. For instance, half didn’t realise that executors are responsible for organising payment of all the deceased’s unpaid debts.

You can save your loved ones a lot of stress by discussing executorship with them in advance. Use our guide on the probate process to help you with this.

Regularly update your list of assets

The Bereavement Index found that 37% of accounts are only discovered during probate. In one in 20 cases, none of the deceased’s assets were known at the outset.

We recommend keeping an up-to-date list of the assets you have – including bank accounts, pensions and insurance policies – to save your executors time tracking them all down.

Review and update your will

It’s best practice to review your will every five years.

According to Exizent, 59% of executors aren’t confident that they’re dealing with an up-to-date will.

If the will does require updating, you’ll need to make a codicil or a new will. Which? Wills offers guidance on when you might need a codicil.

The Which? Money Podcast

DON’T:

Lose the will

A lost will can be a nightmare for executors. Make sure you store it somewhere safe and tell your loved ones where it’s kept.

A secure, fireproof place in your home will do, but you could also consider leaving it with a solicitor or the Probate Service.

Be afraid to ask for help

A will needs to be written and signed correctly in order to be valid. If you’d like advice on making a will, consider using a will-writing service or hiring a solicitor.

  • Which? Wills offers a will-writing service to help guide you through the process.

Forget about foreign assets

If you own foreign assets, dealing with your estate is likely to be more complicated. Some countries have different laws to the UK, so your will may not be automatically valid in those places.

You can help your executors by seeking legal advice, preferably from someone with expertise in the local jurisdiction.

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