The best way to ensure that your wishes are clear about who you want to receive your property, money and possessions after you've gone is to make a Will. Although making a Will doesn't need to be an overly complicated or time consuming process, there's a lot to think about so it's a good idea to do some planning in advance.
Factors that you might want to consider include, how you want to divide your Estate, who you would like to inherit (and not inherit) from you, who to appoint to wind up your affairs (Executor) and any specific funeral wishes you may have.
What is in Your Estate?
Think about what you own, how you own it and how much it's worth. Property, shares, money, vehicles, personal possessions and anything else that you own when you die make up your Estate. Don't forget to consider anything that you haven't received yet, such as a potential inheritance from older loved ones. Also, if you own any of these assets jointly with another person, then you'll need to establish whether these will be transferred into the other person's name or included in your Estate when you die, and (if the latter) the value of your share.
Make a list of all of the significant assets that you own and an estimation of how much these are worth. Don't forget to include digital assets, such as bitcoin, as well as things such as your pension. Also think about sentimental items that you might want to leave to certain people (these may not have any monetary value). In English law, animals and pets are classified as possessions, so think about what you would like to happen to them when you pass away.
Who Do You Want to Inherit from You?
The next step is to make a list of those you would like to leave something to from your Estate. These are called your 'Beneficiaries.' You can name anyone you want to as a Beneficiary in your Will. This might include members of your family, your partner or your friends, as well as charities or other organisations that you would like to leave gifts to.
How Do You Want to Divide Your Estate?
Once you know who you want to include as a Beneficiary in your Will, the next step is to decide what you want to leave to them. You can divide your Estate in a number of ways:
- Fixed sum of money - For example, you may want to leave £5,000 to your nephew. This is called a Pecuniary Bequest.
- Specific item – If there is a specific possession that you want to leave to someone (such as a family heirloom or piece of jewellery) this is called a Specific Bequest.
- Percentage of your Estate (after everything else has been paid off) – This enables you to state that you want someone to receive, say, 10% of what's left in your Estate after debts, tax and other expenses have been paid. This is called a Residuary Bequest. Bear in mind that Pecuniary Bequests will be paid before Residual Bequests, so if there's nothing left then this person could receive nothing.
It's also possible for your Will to say that you would like to leave a gift to someone if they survive you, but that you would like this gift to be passed on to someone else if they don't. This is called a Reversionary Bequest.
For example, if you want to leave your share in the family home to your spouse or partner if they survive you, but you want this to be passed to someone else if they don't survive you (such as your son) then you would use a Reversionary Bequest to do this. You can also go on to say who you would like this to be passed to if your son dies before you.
You might want to consider including a Trust in your Will. This could be useful if you want to ensure that money you have tied up in a house ultimately goes to your children, but you want to ensure that someone you care for can live out their days in it first. This is typically seen where there are children from previous relationships or second marriages. Trusts can also be useful if you want to ensure a vulnerable loved one is provided for but they are unable to manage their own finances. For more information, see our Guide to Using a Trust in a Will.
Who Do You Want to Wind Up Your Affairs?
When you make your Will, you'll need to appoint one or more Executors. These will be the people responsible for dealing with your Estate after you die. This role carries a significant amount of responsibility and may also involves a lot of complex tax, administrative and legal work, so it's important to choose someone who is willing and able to take this on.
It's also important to note that the person you have appointed as Executor can choose to instruct legal professionals to act on their behalf or they can choose not to take on the role at all. It's therefore a good idea to have substitute Executors in place in case this happens or in case your first choice Executor has passed away or is unable to act.
Most people will choose someone that they know and trust to be the Executor of their Estate. This can be someone who is also named as a Beneficiary in your Will.
Record Any Other Wishes
You can choose to record other wishes when you make a Will, so that your family can see these after you have passed away – but be mindful that your will could become a public document after your death. If you have any specific funeral wishes, then you can state these in your Will but it's wise to also discuss these wishes with your chosen Executors and loved ones during your lifetime in case they begin making funeral arrangements before they have obtained access to your Will.
How to Make a Will
Once you've completed these steps, the final step is to make your Will. It is possible to make a Will without the help of a professional, but be cautious as Wills need to be written in a certain way and leave no room for ambiguity, otherwise it could be deemed invalid after you die. If this happens then all of your forward planning will have been wasted.
The safer option is to get a professional Will writer to write your Will for you. However, not all Will writing firms are regulated, so make sure that you check this beforehand to understand whether they are obligated to act in your best interests and that they provide a suitable level of service with experienced professionals.
Co-op Legal Services are regulated and authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. This means that, among other things, we must act with integrity and in our client's best interests, provide a proper standard of service, protect client money and carry insurance if things ever go wrong.
We make Will writing easy. You can start your Will online or request a callback from our Will writing team. Our Will writers can answer your questions and guide you through the process of making your Will. Once your Will has been completed, we store your Will for you, free of charge, for the rest of your life.
How Much Does it Cost to Make a Will?
At Co-op Legal Services we offer fixed fee Wills and there are no hidden charges. Once we have provided you with a written quote for the agreed work to be done making your Will, that price will not change.
- Standard Wills start from £150 for a Single Will
- Mirror Wills (for 2 people) start from £245
- Lasting Power of Attorney starts from £270
All prices include VAT.
For initial advice about making a Will call our Will writers on 03306069591 or contact us online and we will help you.