Dying without a will can have tricky legal consequences. Fortunately, writing a will doesn’t have to be daunting, and there’s help available if you need it. Here’s our guide to writing a simple will.

 

Writing a legal will: things to remember

For your will to be legal:

  • You must be over 18.
  • You must be of sound mind and acting voluntarily.
  • The will must be written. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be handwritten; you could type your will and print it out for signing. But you can’t record a spoken will, for example.
  • You must sign the will in front of two witnesses. In England and Wales, it’s possible to do this remotely through a video call, although the witnesses will still need to sign the will.
  • Both witnesses must sign the same copy of the will that you sign.
  • Both witnesses must be over 18, and you cannot leave them or their legal spouses anything in your will.

 

If you use codicils to make changes later, the codicils will also need to be signed and witnessed, following the same signing rules as the will itself.

 

It’s worth speaking to a professional when you’re writing your will, to help avoid mistakes that might make the will invalid or cause problems when trying to fulfil it. It’s particularly worth asking a professional for help in any of the following cases, which can make writing a will more complicated:

  • If you share property with someone you’re not married to or in a civil partnership with.
  • If you want to leave anything to someone who can’t care for themselves.
  • If you have, for example, living former spouses or children from multiple partners who may contest the will.
  • If you live outside the UK or own property overseas.
  • If you have your own business.

 

Writing a will yourself

Here are the basics of how to make a simple will:

  1. List everything you own and will need to distribute. For example, property, savings, pensions, insurance schemes, stocks, vehicles and possessions.
  2. List your debts. Your executor will need to pay these from your estate before everything else can be handed out.
  3. Decide on guardians for any children you have under the age of 18. Of course, you should agree on this with the prospective guardians before you actually put them down in your will. You can also name guardians for your pets. It’s worth naming back-up guardians in case, for any reason, your first choice can’t take on the charge.
  4. List specific bequests. In other words, explain which specific items and/or amounts of money you’d like to give to specific people or organisations. Be very clear about the identity of anyone you name in your will. Give their full name, with the correct spelling, and, if possible, their relationship to you.
  5. After debts are paid and specific bequests are made, anything that’s left is called your residuary estate. Explain how you’d like your residuary estate to be distributed. You may want it to be split equally between certain people, or you may want to name the specific percentage of the estate each person receives.
  6. In case any of your named beneficiaries die before you do, you may want to name who should inherit in their stead. If you don’t specify this, the beneficiary’s share will usually just become part of your residuary estate; it won’t automatically pass to the beneficiary’s children unless the beneficiary was your child or grandchild.
  7. Name your executors. These are the people who will make sure the wishes in your will are carried out. Unlike witnesses, your executors can be named as beneficiaries in your will, although they don’t have to be. There can be up to four executors, and they must be over 18. You can ask Beyond to act as your executor.

 

If you’d like a template or form to work with when writing out a will, you can buy inexpensive kits for writing a will and testament from various stationery shops or online retailers.

 

How can Beyond help?

If your assets are all within England and Wales and you’re a permanent resident, we have a straightforward online will creation service you can use. For just £90, you can make a simple will online with help from our legal team.

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