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DIY Will: A Step-By-Step Guide

Preparing for Death

If you’re wondering ‘how to write my own will’ then you’ll be glad to know that it’s a fairly simple process. In this step-by-step guide, we will show you how it can be done and when you should talk to a professional.

Step 1 - Valuing your estate

The first thing you need to do is to value your estate. This will more or less include everything you own whether it is a home, shares in a company or some sentimental collector’s item. You should make a list of everything that you own and what you plan on including in your will.

Along with this, you should include your debts. The likes of loans and credit cards will need to be paid from your estate if the money is available. If not, these debts will be written off as long as they are solely in your name. You also have to consider how the likes of a mortgage will be paid once you’re gone.

Step 2 – Dividing your estate

This is the part that is going to need the most thought. It can be difficult working out what is fair and it can be a challenge dividing up everything you own. It’s worth remembering that your will can always be altered at a later date.

It's a good plan to start with your large assets such as property or any money. If you have a property with your spouse then this would automatically transfer to them. If it's solely owned then the person you're bequeathing the property too will also be responsible for the mortgage, possibly selling the property and any inheritance tax.

When writing this part, you should be very clear about your wording. If you write "leave my car to John Smith", for example, this doesn't specify which car as it could be that you have more than one in your name. Also, you may have two John Smiths in your family and therefore you should be specific.

You should also note what should happen if any of your beneficiaries should die before you as this may otherwise invalidate your will. The focus here is clarity as you don’t want to leave any questions that could be contested at a later date.

Step 3 – Pick you executors

An important step in the will writing process is to pick an executor. This is the person who is going to be responsible for distributing the estate once you’ve passed away. It can be more than one person and it should be specifically noted in your will.

It’s a job that can take a lot of work and responsibility. Therefore, the person you choose shouldn't necessarily be the person that you're closest to and instead, the person who you feel is most able to deal with the task at hand.

Step 4 – Writing your will

Now is the time to start writing down everything that you have found out so far. The writing should be clearly worded to avoid any confusion. It should also be heavily proofread before you settle on a final draft.

There are many templates out there that you can follow that can make it easier to write your will without using a professional. While dividing up most assets is going to be relatively simple, there are other occasions where it can be a little trickier.

In terms of the will, there is a fairly common structure:

Declaration – This is simply stating your name, address and that you are of sound state of mind.

Background – Here you state if you have a spouse while also detailing any children you have.

Executor – List your executor and a backup should your primary choice be unavailable.

Guardian – If you’re the sole parent of any children at the time of your passing, this section is to show you wish to be your children’s legal guardian.

Bequests and Requests – After your debts, expenses and liabilities, you use this section to inform your beneficiaries of how you are dividing your assets and possessions.

Step 5 – Validating your will

The final vital step in writing your will is getting it validated. This doesn’t have to be done professionally but simply needs to be done in front of witnesses. The first step to getting your will validated is you signing it in the presence of two witnesses.

You should then have these two witnesses also sign the will, with their signature being witnesses by you and one other person. Once you have completed this simple process then the will is going to be legally binding.

Step 6 – Storing your will

It’s important that your executor is going to have access to your will. The most common way to do this is to store your will with a solicitor and let your executor know who it was stored with. There are also companies out there who can store your will and some banks can offer this service.

You can also simply store it yourself but you want to be careful to ensure that it’s safe and also accessible. You can also create copies of it for extra security.

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