Once you’ve reached the point where you’ve decided you need a will, there’s a few things you need to think about first.
Whether you've reached this point because of getting married, buying a house, having a baby, a death in the family, or becoming ill, there's some considerations to think about before setting up your will:
Who do you want to have your belongings (money, home, possessions)?
Do you want a solicitor to look after your estate when you die?
Is it straightforward (everything to go to spouse) or more complicated (are there step-children, ex-husbands or wives etc)?
Where do you want the will stored? You could have a solicitor store it, or store it yourself.
TIP: Don't store your will in a bank safety deposit box. The box can't be opened without the executor of the will getting probate, which can't happen without the will.
Writing the will
After working out if it's straightforward or not, there's a couple different routes you can take:
Write it yourself using a will kit. You can pick these up on the high street (and online) and typically cost around £10-£15.
Instruct a solicitor to write one for you. According to the Money Advice Service this could cost between £100-£200 for a single will, and up to £300 for a joint will.
If you're writing your will yourself, you need to make sure you have it witnessed by two people who are over 18.
These need to be people who aren’t connected to the will and won’t benefit from it (ie they’re not being left anything in your will).
To keep the will legal, you also need to make sure you’re over 18, that you are of sound mind when you write it, and that you’re writing it voluntarily.
Keeping it up to date
It’s worth reviewing your will periodically to make sure it accounts for any changes that have happened in your life, such as:
new children or grandchildren
moved house, or bought another property
new possessions you'd like certain people to have
If you get married, whether for the first time or a consecutive time, this cancels any previous wills automatically – so you’ll need to review it if this happens.
When you review your will or update it (this is called a codicil), you also need to get it witnessed and signed like you did originally.
If you’re making any major changes to it, or several amendments, you should write a new will. In that will, state that this replaces your previous will. Once that’s done, you should destroy your old will.