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How To Write Your First Will and Testament

Preparing for Death

Once you pass away, you want to have your affairs in order and make your passing as easy as possible on your loved ones. With a will, you can have full control over what happens to everything that you own. Whether it is a million pounds or simply a sentimental gift, a will lets your executor know exactly where it's going.

Can you write your own will?

Absolutely, you don’t need anyone else to write your will for you but there are situations when it’s advised. There are a few steps you need to take in order for your will to be legally binding.

Firstly, the will needs to be written voluntarily and you have to be of sound mind when making it. The will also needs to be made in writing and you have to be over 18 to be able to do it.

While that may be fairly obvious, there are also rules on the will being witnessed. You need to sign it in the presence of at least two people who are both other the age of 18. Along with this, at least two people need to sign it in your presence.

What you need to cover

There are a few key things that your will should set out:

Beneficiaries – You should make it clear who you want to benefit from your will. If this is money, then this includes specifying specific amounts. If you're leaving property to children, then specific percentages of ownership should be detailed, for example.

Children – If you have children under the age of 18, it should be made clear who should look after them. This will often be their surviving parent but if that’s not possible, you should specify who should be their guardian.

Executor – Your will needs to have an executor. This will be the person who deals with the estate and will carry out your wishes.

Is your will complicated?

There are going to a few occasions where your will may be a little more complicated. At these times, it may be the best idea to get the help of an expert to write it for you. They will be able to navigate through any legal issues and help to overcome any complications.

This includes the likes of sharing a property with someone who isn’t your partner, leaving money to someone that can't care for themselves or if there are disputed assets. There can also be added difficulties if you have property overseas or have a business.

There are solicitors that specialize in will writing and there are also professional will writers who aren’t regulated but are well versed in the legal requirements around a will. If you’re short on money then some charities can help in writing a will.

Will writing tips

If you decide to write your own will, then you need to do it with care and it’s best to follow some basic tips.

Making it valid – As mentioned earlier, you need to ensure your will is witnessed correctly. Added to this is should be signed and dated to ensure it is valid.

Proofreading – You don’t want to make any mistakes in your will that could be misinterpreted. This is especially important with monetary amounts, percentages and names.

Be clear – A lack of clarity can be a big issue. Saying that you’re leaving “your car” to your son may seem clear, but if you get a second car after writing the will then this suddenly becomes unclear. Be specific with assets and names. Describe exactly what they are.

Invalidate old wills – When situation change, you can either amend a will or write a new one. Whichever it is, make sure you clearly stipulate that your previous will is now invalid.

Make it known – A will can feel like a private thing to write but you need to make people aware that you have made one. Specifically, you should tell the executor of the will where it can be found.

Storing your will

You don’t want the only copy of your will locked away in a secret cupboard. Using a solicitor can be a good idea as they’ll be able to store a copy for you. Aside from that, there are companies that store wills and also your bank may offer the service.

You can keep it in your home but it’s important that you let the executor know where it is so that they can follow out your requests. It’s a good idea to have more than one copy of it to ensure there are no problems once you’ve passed away.

Final thoughts

For most people, a will needn’t be a complicated document. As long as you clearly list your wishes then it should be straightforward to write one yourself. There are some simple templates online that can give you a starting point on how it should be structured.

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