Having been a Wills Solicitor for many years it’s easy to forget the fact that, for many people, writing a Will is a completely new experience. Research suggests that one of the main reasons people are put off from writing a Will is that it’s thought to be a complex task. This is understandable, particularly if you’ve never done it before and you’re thinking of instructing a Wills Lawyer for the first time.
Having a good understanding of the types of things you’ll need to decide will make the process of getting your Will in place much easier.
How to Start Writing a Will
A sensible place to start the Will writing process is to consider all the people or charities that you would like to benefit in some way from your Estate (your net worth) after you’ve died. At this stage, you don’t necessarily need to think about “what” they’ll receive or “how much”, just that you’d like to include them in some way.
The next step is to think about who you’d want to be responsible for dealing with the terms of your Will. This role is called your Executor. You can choose more than one person to be your Executors and you can even choose substitutes as well.
A good way to think about your Executor is to imagine them “stepping into your shoes” after your death and winding up every aspect of your life, from arranging your funeral, to dealing with your property, possessions, bank accounts and investments, through to paying any debts you had and ultimately distributing your Estate in accordance with the terms of your Will. You can choose a beneficiary to be an Executor if you like, in fact that is quite common.
There are also practical considerations, such as putting your funeral wishes in your Will. This is not legally binding as ultimately the decision has to be made by your Executor after your death.
However, it’s always sensible to include your preferences so that they are clear. Sometimes people don’t have any funeral wishes and that’s OK. But the advice I always give is, even if you don’t have particularly strong feelings about the matter, it’s far better to put something down in your Will, even just to say that you’d prefer a burial or cremation. This will give your Executors peace of mind that they’re not doing something that you wouldn’t have wanted.
The next stage is to consider whether you have any specific possessions that you would like to give to a particular person. These are normally items that carry sentimental value such as an engagement or wedding ring, but in theory it could be anything that you own upon death.
If you have children currently under the age of 18 then you’ll want to think about choosing a legal Guardian in your Will. This appointment would take effect if you and the other parent die, leaving a child under the age of 18.
So, hopefully, at this stage, you’ll have some thoughts about:
- People to be beneficiaries of your Estate
- People to be your Executors
- Your funeral wishes
- Whether you need to appoint a Guardian for your children
- Whether you want to leave any specific possessions or items to anyone
You’re now almost there in terms of deciding what you need to put in your Will.
How Can You Know What You Will Own When You Die?
This is a good question and the short answer is that you can’t possibly know this, but there’s no cause for concern. The simple solution when writing your Will is to use the term Residuary Estate.
What is a Residuary Estate?
Residuary Estate basically means everything you own in your Estate at death, after the payment of any debts you may owe, administration expenses of winding up your Estate and any specific gifts you’ve wanted to make.
Your Will sets out how your Residuary Estate should be distributed, whether outright to one person, divided between a number of people equally, or divided in percentage shares. This approach is an essential way to writing a Will as it sets out how your Estate should be distributed, regardless of whether it’s worth £10,000 or £1 million.
Having a Will is incredibly important if you want to ensure your wishes are known and legally effective after you pass away.
Writing a Will with Co-op Legal Services isn’t a daunting task. We use plain English and avoid any jargon. If you need to make a Will and would like to discuss your circumstances, speak to our Will Writing Advisors. We’ll explain how we can help you and will give you a fixed fee quote, so that you understand what is involved before going ahead.
Once we have provided you with a written quote for the agreed work, that price will not change.