Making a Will

The information in this guide was last updated on 21/04/2017

Wills let you put down in words what you want to happen to your assets after you die. A Will also nominates someone to be in charge of carrying out your wishes.

What happens if you die without making a Will?

The formal term for dying without a will is dying intestate. Simplified, this means that the government could keep everything if a suitable heir is not found.

The rules of intestacy can be very complicated. Who will get what depends on several things:

  • where you live in the UK
  • your estate’s worth
  • whether you have a spouse or a civil partner, and whether there are other relatives who survive you.

Only your married or civil partner is assured of any inheritance. Your children and grandchildren will only receive anything if your estate is over set amounts for the part of the UK you live in. You can check the intestacy rules on GOV.UK Intestacy - who inherits if someone dies without a will for an indication of how your estate would be distributed without a Will in place. It's clearly important to have a Will, and to review it regularly. 

How do I make a Will?

When you decide to make a Will, there are two ways of doing it:

With a solicitor

If you have a complex estate and lots of heirs to consider, using a solicitor is recommended. Costs depend on how complex your estate is.

By yourself

Packaged Wills are available to buy and complete yourself. It’s recommended that you only make a Will yourself if your estate is simple and below the current Inheritance Tax threshold of £325,000.

If your estate is above the threshold, it important to seek legal advice when writing your will. A solicitor can help you to understand all the options available, such as using the residence nil rate band available from 6 April 2017, that may reduce any liability to Inheritance Tax. For more information see: GOV.UK Inheritance tax: residence nil band rate (RNRB)

When is a Will legally binding?

There are certain things that need to happen to make your will a legal document. If it’s not, it won’t stand up in court and your heirs might not receive what you intended.

Your Will needs to be:

  • made by someone over 18 years old
  • in writing
  • made voluntarily
  • made by a person of sound mind
  • signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses
  • signed by two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the will.

Can I change my Will?

Yes, it’s always possible to make changes to your existing will.

To make sure your new Will is legally binding and the only one that will be considered after your death:

  • confirm that previous Wills should be ignored by including the  phrase: ‘All other Wills that pre-date this are null and void from this date’
  • destroy all previous versions of your Will by burning them or tearing them up.