Checklist for making a will
17 December 2020
When making a will in England and Wales, you’ll need to decide what you want to include in it and you’ll also need to have certain information ready.
Here we’ve put together a checklist for making a will. This will help you understand the kind of decisions you’ll need to make and what information you should start to gather.
If there’s anything you’re not sure about, you can speak to one of our professional will writers first, so we can answer your questions and discuss the options with you.
Making a will checklist
Your personal information
You’ll need to provide your will writer with details about yourself. This includes your full name, date of birth, current address, relationship status and the names of any children you have, along with their date of birth.
You’ll need to consider what assets (items of value) you own, including those owned in your sole name and those owned in joint names. This might include property, bank accounts, stocks and shares, vehicles, foreign assets and anything else of value such as jewellery. You should also consider what debts and liabilities you have such as a mortgage or outstanding loan. This will help you to calculate the net value of your estate.
You’ll then need to decide who you want to receive your estate when you die.
There are different ways you can do this. You might leave everything to one person, such as your spouse. However, you should also decide who should inherit your estate if your main beneficiary dies before you. So your will could say that if your spouse dies before you, your two children should receive your estate in equal shares.
Or you might want to make specific gifts (such as gifts of personal property) or leave fixed cash gifts to certain people or organisations. So, for example, you could request that your wedding ring is left to your goddaughter Alice, and that £5,000 is paid to a particular charity. You can then say that whatever is leftover after payment of earlier gifts, liabilities and administration expenses (called your ‘residuary estate’) should be given to your son James.
You’ll need to provide the full names and addresses of all your beneficiaries.
It's worth noting that gifts and donations to charity in a will are normally exempt from inheritance tax. To qualify for the inheritance tax exemption the charity must have Charity Reference Number, and you will need to state this number in your will.
Next you’ll need to choose your executors. Your executors are the people who will wind up your affairs after you die. It’s a job that carries a lot of responsibility, so it’s important to choose someone who is capable of carrying out the role. Most people will name someone they know and trust to be their executor.
You can choose just one executor or you can choose multiple executors to act together. You can also nominate replacement executors in case those named are unable or unwilling to act when the time comes. It is common to appoint a beneficiary as an executor as well.
If you are struggling to think of someone who could act in this role, you do have the option of appointing a professional executor.
If you’re choosing individuals as your executors then you’ll need to provide their full names and addresses.
Legal guardians for your children
If you have children who are under the age of 18, you’ll need to make provisions for them. This includes naming a legal guardian who will be legally responsible for your children if you and their other parent both die while they are under the age of 18.
You’ll need to provide the full names and addresses of your legal guardians.
You’ll need to decide whether you want to put certain assets (normally money or property) into trust. There are different types of trusts available and each have their own benefits.
One example of how a trust can be used if to protect your children's inheritance if they are still under 18. For example, you might want their inheritance to be placed in a trust which they can only access at a certain age.
If you do decide to create a trust, you’ll need to appoint trustees who will manage the trust on behalf of the beneficiary. Your trustees could be the same people who act as your executors.
You’ll need to provide the full names and addresses of your trustees.
Your other wishes
You’ll then have the opportunity to record any other wishes that you have. Usually you’ll be asked if you have any specific funeral wishes, although you can leave it to your loved ones to sort out if you prefer.
You might also want to write a letter of wishes to accompany your will, explaining the motivation behind the decisions you’ve made in your will. This can be very useful for your executors, who will then have a better understanding of why you’ve decided to distribute your estate in the way that you have.
If you’ve excluded someone from your will, a letter of wishes can also help to prevent successful claims being made against your estate.
If you have any questions about the above, or you want to talk through your options, we can help you.