Advice Admin & Legal Making a will in the UK: Complete Free Guide 2020

Making a will in the UK: Complete Free Guide 2020

Why is making a will in the UK important?

Making a will is the legally binding way of expressing your wishes over what happens when you die. It allows you to split your estate and assets between certain people; leave gifts and messages to loved ones; appoint guardians for your children or pets; and to let your family know about any funeral wishes you might have.

Having a will is particularly important for the following people:

  • For parents: If you've got children under the age of 18, writing a will allows you to appoint legal guardians for them. Without this, if anything were to happen to both parents, it’s up to the courts as to who’ll look after them.

  • For homeowners: For those of us with larger assets, like a house, it’s important to properly divide up your estate. A will allows you to keep a record of your assets and to choose exactly how much you want people to inherit. This is important as it helps to prevent any family disputes that could arise after you pass.

  • For people with an existing will that hasn’t been updated in a while: Many people believe that a will is a one-time event; once it’s sorted, it no longer matters. In actual fact, it's recommended ny the government that you review your will at least once every five years in order to keep it up to date. If you've gone through a significant life event recently, such as becoming a parent or buying a house, then you might consider updating your will.

What happens if I don’t have a will?

There are financial and non-financial costs to not having a will in place. Financially, it costs a family on average £9,700 if their loved one passes away without a will. Without a will you also don't have any control over who inherits your assets and possessions.

In addition, there are the emotional costs attached to not having a will. It can be stressful for a family if they're having to make decisions that they believe to reflect your wishes after you've died. This is often the case with funerals and services for someone who has passed away - it can be helpful for a family to know that you’re being remembered the way that you would’ve wanted. Writing a will allows you to easily set out any funeral wishes (perhaps particular music, clothing or locations that were important to you).

What information do I need to write my will?

Below we outline what you need to be thinking about as you write your will.

If you need to appoint legal guardians (skip this if you don’t have children or pets)

  • Your will allows you to appoint legal guardians, who’ll take care of your children or pets after you've died. If you were to die without appointing guardians, it would be up to the courts to decide.
  • Guardians are, fortunately, not often called upon. However, choosing the right people just in case the worst happens is recommended.

Making an inventory of your estate

  • When someone dies without a will money is often lost as a person’s assets cannot be found. Listing your assets in your will is a good way to let your family know where to find everything and reduce the burden, and cost, for your executors.

  • We only require a simple list of your assets, no need to hand over details of account numbers or values. It’s just a list to help your family know where to look in the case of your death.

  • This list is not exhaustive, as in it doesn't need to be 100% accurate at the time of passing. In other words, if you purchase a house and don't update you will, this doesn't mean it won't be included in the estate, more that it will take your executors time to find them without guidance. As suggested above, you should update your will every 5 years and this includes updating your financial assets.

Choosing executors

  • In your will you're required to choose executors. These are the people who take on the task of following the wishes set out in your will; in particular the distribution of your estate.

  • It’s usually best to pick someone organised who is also confident in dealing with paperwork and finances.

Funeral Wishes

  • Funeral wishes are an optional addition to a will and a great way to help your family following your death. Knowing that they’re saying goodbye to you in a way that represents your beliefs can be comforting.

  • Have you thought about what you’d like people to wear? Are there any poems or readings that you like? Would you like to have a service and wake? Cremation or burial?

  • These wishes aren’t legally binding, but can help to avoid conflict between family members. Maybe you would like to invite specific people to the funeral that your family don’t know very well.

Do I need a solicitor to write a will?

It's a common belief that a solicitor is needed to write a will. However, often your requirements are fairly straightforward and a solicitor will charge for their time or even up-sell you into a will that is more complex than needed. How does this differ online?

  • We haven’t cut solicitors out of the process. Our online will was drafted by our legal team and when you write your will with us you're simply completing the will with your information for them. This is cheaper and simpler than organising anything face-to-face. For your peace of mind, we also double-check every will that is written online and get in touch if there are any problems.

  • There may be specific circumstances that mean you need to write your will with a solicitor. You might have a complex estate, high-value business assets or want specific inheritance tax planning. We're also able to organise a face-to-face meeting so if this sounds like you, just let us know.

What are the different ways to write a will?

There are three main options to choose when writing your will:

  1. Using a solicitor
  2. Making a will online
  3. Writing a will at home (DIY)

For a will to be valid it needs to meet certain conditions and given that it's easy to make a mistake you should be confident with whichever route you decide to use.

1) Using a solicitor to write your will

Solicitors are the most traditional way of writing a will. However, it's also often the most expensive way of writing your will, and if your needs are simple may not be worth the spend.

If you require a complex will, which generally means you have a very large or complicated estate, you might need to speak to a lawyer. Along with one of the best online will services, we have a great network of solicitors. If you think you require a complex will you can call us on 020 4525 3605 for guidance.

2) Making a will online

This is an easy and modern way of writing will. When you  write your online will with Octopus Legacy, you just have to complete a questionnaire where we ask information about yourself and your family. Once this is complete, we draft your will and send it for expert review before we return it to you to be signed and legally validated. In case your circumstances change in the future, writing your will online allows you to easily make updates.

Some may feel that using a solicitor is important if you want to talk through options with an expert. We also offer this service to those writing their will online. Our team is always at hand to help you get your wishes conveyed properly.

We take the stress out of making a will. With Octopus Legacy, you can privately prepare your will at your own pace.

3) DIY Will-writing

We have written about DIY wills before. This is perhaps the riskiest way to get your will sorted. Often it involves buying a template online or at a local shop. Please read our advice on doing this in the linked article above.

Things to consider when making a DIY will:

  • You must be over 18
  • You must have the mental capacity to make a will
  • The DIY will must be signed, dated and witnessed correctly
  • It must state that it replaces all previous versions (which should also be destroyed)
  • All important information must be clear and not misspelt
  • If in doubt, have it checked by a solicitor

Our online will service is only £90 and is a good alternative to a free will. Our service is free to try and we only charge you when you download the will to sign it.

How can I write a will quickly?

The process of talking through your wishes with a legal professional can be time-consuming and quite daunting. On the other hand, you wouldn't want to rush writing your own will - without knowing what you are doing, it could be contested.

Online wills have solved this problem, you get the convenience of writing your will at home without losing the insight and skills of a legal professional. In just 15 minutes you can write a will and send it off to be checked by an expert.

How much does it cost to make a will?

Our online will costs £90 for a single will & £135 for a couple's will.

How does this compare to other options for will writing?

The cost of your will, when made with a solicitor, will vary depending on your circumstances. For a simple will similar to our online will it can cost anywhere from £150-250.

More complex wills can cost up to £500 - or even higher. You may need a complex will if you have a particularly large estate, foreign assets or a complex family situation.

As mentioned, you also need to update your will every 5 years. This can be done in many ways, but normally either via a codicil or a re-drafting. The cost of this will be similar to your first purchase. Making your will online with Octopus Legacy however, allows you to update your will at anytime. This can lead to further savings down the line as you can more easily update your document if your circumstances change.

Need a helping hand?

You can ask our expert team who will support you every step of the way.

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