How Does Making a Will Work?
30 October 2017
A Will allows you to legally record who you’d like to receive your money, property and other possessions after your death.
Unless you have a valid Will in place, any wishes you have expressed during your lifetime won’t be recognised legally and are unlikely to be carried out.
What Does a Will do?
A Will lets you do a number of things. The main purpose of a Will is to allow you to choose who inherits your assets, and in what proportion.
It also gives you the opportunity to say who you’d like to be responsible for winding up your affairs after your death. These people are known as your Executors. They would need to notify people or organisations of your death, obtain a value of your assets and liabilities, apply for a Grant of Probate (if required), arrange to pay any taxes due, sell or transfer assets, settle any debts or administration expenses and then distribute what’s left to the beneficiaries named in your Will.
A Will is the only way in which you can formally record these decisions and therefore ensure that they will be followed when you die. Unless you put them into a legally valid Will, whatever wishes you have expressed during your lifetime will not count under the eyes of the law. So if you pronounce these decisions in any other way – for example, by telling your friends and family members, or jotting them down on a piece of paper – they will not be taken into consideration after your death.
A Will also allows you to name Legal Guardians for your children. This makes it clear who you want to care for them should you and the other parent die while they are under the age of 18. You can also make specific funeral requests and gifts to charity if you want to.
If you do die without a Will, the law will decide who gets what. A set of laws called the Rules of Intestacy will determine who your beneficiaries are and how much they receive. These rules will also establish who is allowed to wind up your affairs. If your children need a Legal Guardian, the Courts may choose who is most suitable to raise them. The only thing that your loved ones will be able to decide on is the funeral arrangements. Everything else will be taken out of their hands.
How to Make a Valid Will
So, making a Will is extremely important, as it’s your only way to control what happens to your possessions (which actually includes your children and pets) when you die. However, your Will must also be legally valid, or it won’t work properly. To make a legally valid Will in England and Wales, you must:
- Be over the age of 18
- Make your Will in writing
- Be of sound mind to understand what a Will is and the impact of it
- Decide what to include in your Will voluntarily without suffering any influence or coercion
- Sign your Will in front of two independent witnesses who are over the age of 18
- Have the same witnesses sign your Will in your presence.
Many people choose a professional legal service, like Co-op, when putting their Will in place to ensure that they take advice on their circumstances so that their will is drafted properly and in accordance with the law. Unfortunately we see many homemade DIY wills where certain gifts fails, or the entire Will is legally invalid. Sadly, if the latter happens, it will be just the same as dying without a Will.
Co-op Will Writing Service
We want to make Will writing as easy and convenient as possible. We’re open outside normal office hours such as evenings up until 8pm and also offer an online will service. We also offer fixed fees so you’ll know exactly how much everything costs before you decide to write your Will with us.