Many people put off writing a Will because they fear it is going to be a long and complicated process. But with a bit of planning and preparation, the process can be quite straight forward. So to help you prepare, we have written a list of things you need to think about before you start your Will.
Make a simple list of everything you have that makes up your "estate". Your estate includes property and housing, bank and building society accounts, investments, insurance policies, shares, cars, household possessions and personal possessions.
It is also important to know whether or not your estate is worth more than the tax-free allowance, or "nil rate band" (details of the current allowance, which is currently £325,000, can be found at).
Executors are individuals or organisations that administer your estate when you die. This is one of the most important decisions when you create your Will. Executors can be:
You should name a person you trust, who will see your estate is settled efficiently and quickly. Often a spouse or civil partner, an adult child (aged over 18) or close relative or friend is appointed as an executor. We recommend, however, that you appoint at least two executors, and in some cases (for example, where your estate includes a property or you create a trust in your Will), two executors will be necessary.
If your financial affairs are complex, we suggest that one of those should be a professional executor, such as a solicitor or trust corporation. However, you may not name more than four executors in total.
In a MyLawyer Will, we also give you the option of appointing substitute executors in case any of the original executors that you appoint either die before you or are otherwise unable or unwilling to act as an executor after your death.
You should specify one or more people to act as a guardian in case you and your spouse (or the child's other parent) die before the child reaches the age of 18. You should agree with the child's other parent who will be guardian, and ensure you have the agreement of the person(s) you are appointing.
In your Will, you can leave specific items such as jewellery or money to anyone you choose (known as 'beneficiaries'), so give some thought to whether you would like to do this and if so, to whom and what you would like to leave them.
Known as 'chattels', your personal possessions include things like your clothes, furniture and other possessions and you have the choice of leaving them to named individuals or including these items in the remainder of your estate (known as your 'residuary estate').
Your residuary estate includes everything that you have not left as a specific gift and there are a number of ways you can give these remaining assets away in your Will. For example, you could give just the income from your estate to your spouse or partner and hold the rest to be given to your children after your spouse/partner dies.
You can nominate alternate residuary beneficiaries (a "beneficiary" is a person who receives a gift from your Will) in case none of those you previously named qualify for their gifts.
Whilst you do not have to state in your Will how you wish your body to be disposed of when you die, you may do so if you wish. Any special requests can be inserted into a letter of wishes, and you can also use this letter to state how you wish your body to be disposed of instead of stating it in your Will.
If you have any pets, do you want your spouse/ partner to look after them when you pass away, and do you wish to leave any money to the person taking charge of your pet(s) to assist with their upkeep?
Gifts to UK registered charities in your Will are tax exempt and therefore don't reduce your tax-free allowance. Making a gift is simple. Just get the name, address and registered number of any charities you wish to give to, and decide what gift(s) you wish to make.
You can make a gift of money or specific items or include the charity as a residuary (or alternate residuary) beneficiary. If you wish the gift to be used for any specific purpose, this can be stated in a letter of wishes.