10 Tips for writing your will - Make sure you get it right
So you’ve decided to write a will, but don’t know where to begin?
Writing a will isn’t something to take lightly – get it wrong, and it could have serious repercussions on your friends and family in the event of your death.
Badly written, unclear or poorly thought-out wills can cause division and conflict amongst your surviving relatives and loved ones, and can lead to legal challenges that could mean your estate is divided up in ways you never intended.
Make sure this doesn’t happen to you by following these top 10 tips to writing a will.
1. Get professional help
Writing your own will might be the cheapest option, but it’s really risky. It’s easy to make mistakes, and using the wrong terminology, making silly errors or inserting ambiguous clauses can lead to your will being rendered invalid. Getting professional support from a solicitor you trust is the best way to ensure that your wishes are followed, and that your beneficiaries inherit in the way you want them to.
2. Choose your executors carefully
Appointing the right people as your executors will help to minimise the risk of your estate being mismanaged. You’ll want to appoint at least 2 people (in case one is unavailable or dies before you), and may want to appoint one professional executor, such as a solicitor, to provide expert support and advice during the process. Check out our blog on choosing executors for further info.
3. Keep your beneficiaries out of the process
If you can avoid it, it’s best not to ask your beneficiaries to help with the drafting of your will. This can lead to accusations of favouritism from other beneficiaries when you die, opening it up to potential challenges and causing unnecessary friction between family members.
4. Don’t forget the details
It sounds simple, but it’s important to follow proper procedure when writing your will. Make sure it’s signed and witnessed by two people who aren’t beneficiaries to ensure that your will is valid.
5. Keep it somewhere safe
Make sure you arrange for your will to be safely stored, so that your executors can find it once you’re gone. If your executor can’t find a valid will in the event of your death, then your estate will be divided up in accordance with the intestacy laws. Having it stored with your solicitor is a good option – as is ensuring that your will is registered with Certainty, the national database of wills (most solicitors will do this for you).
6. Make a residual legacy
Making specific gifts and legacies is integral to making your will, but it’s important to remember that you’ll also need to specify what happens to the rest of your estate after these are made. Failing to account for the residue can lead to what’s known as a ‘partial intestacy’, which can lead to your estate being divided up in ways you did not intend.
7. Take steps to minimise inheritance tax
Inheritance tax can have a huge impact on the value of the estate you leave behind – but there are steps you can take to reduce the amount of inheritance tax you have to pay.
These include using trusts, making specific gifts, and donating to charity. Check out our two-part post on how to cut inheritance tax here (part 1, part 2) for further information. Your solicitor will be able to provide you with tailored advice on the best way to maximise your family wealth and cut the amount of inheritance tax you pay.
8. Think of the children – appointing guardians
If you’ve got children under 18, then it’s important to set out guardianship of your children in the will. This is especially important if you are unmarried but have children – if an unmarried woman dies, then the male partner may not automatically get guardianship of their children.
9. Review your will regularly
It’s important to keep your will updated, to ensure that it continues to reflect your wishes throughout your life. Circumstances change and new relationships, the birth of children, deaths in the family and the launch of new businesses can all have an impact on your wishes. Even if you think nothing has changed, it’s a good idea to update your will at least once every five years anyway.
10. Be clear with your instructions
When setting out your instructions, make sure they are as clear as possible. Double-check the spelling of names, avoiding nicknames, and ensure that any specific heirlooms or gifts you want to bequeath are clearly outlined in your will.
Want to learn more about any aspect of wills, inheritance or probate? Download our free Ultimate Guide to Wills and Probate today.