How to make a Will?15th February 2021
What is a Will?
A Will is the only document which allows for you to control what happens to your personal belongings, your money, your property and your investments (what lawyers call your “estate”) when you die. In your Will, you can also choose who will look after putting your wishes into effect, as your Executors, and who will look after your children, as their Guardian, if you die when they are still under the age of 18. Some people also set out their funeral wishes in their Will.
When you make a Will, you set out exactly where, and to whom, your estate should pass, making a potentially upsetting time for your loved ones far easier for them.
Making a Will
Making a Will need not be daunting, and it won’t be if you ask a firm of solicitors to guide you through the process. Once it has been completed, your Will can be stored away in the knowledge that, if the worst were to happen, your wishes will be followed.
Why should you make a Will?
There is no such thing as a typical or straight-forward family but the laws which will apply to your estate if you die without a Will do not cover many possibilities. For example, unmarried partners and stepchildren are ignored, and not all brothers and sisters are treated equally.
If you do not have a Will, the laws will determine who inherits from you which may well not be what you want. An unmarried partner, for example, will simply not inherit anything at all. This emphasises the importance of having a Will.
Your Will can also deal with particular considerations relating to particular people to make sure they can enjoy their inheritance in full. For example, someone living with a disability who may not be able to manage a large inheritance themselves, someone receiving benefits or social funding which they might lose due to an inheritance, someone with drug or alcohol dependency, someone with bankruptcy issues or someone facing divorce.
A Will can also be part of your plans to minimise tax and protect your assets and can also ensure that your pets will be looked after.
Step 1 – Make a plan
Make a list of everything you own. Include your personal belongings, bank accounts, investments, shareholdings, houses and land and any other asset that has financial value or has value to you and your family (for example jewellery or family heirlooms).
Think about what you wish to achieve from the gifts you will make in your Will and who you want to benefit. You may, for example, wish to leave your whole estate to your children or you may prefer to leave a cash sum to each grandchild, some family heirlooms to a particular member of your family and the rest to your children.
Think about what will happen if some of the people on your list were to die before you. For example, if one of your children died before you, what happens to their inheritance? Does it go to their children?
Do not forget about charities. When you die, you have an opportunity to be generous to charities you liked to support. Perhaps more generous than you could afford to be in your lifetime?
Think about who you want as your executors. You can appoint your solicitor but remember that executors often instruct a solicitor to assist them so you can appoint friends or family members knowing that they can get help and support if they are daunted by the process. Executors are not required to undertake the process themselves on their own.
Remember when thinking about your estate, your family, and your Will, you must choose what you want. It is not about what other people expect you to do or want you to do. There may be people, such as your partner or young children, who will be relying on your generosity, but you Will should set out your own wishes.
Step 2 – Instruct a Solicitor
Your solicitor will talk with you about your wishes and, once they understand the goals you wish to achieve, they can then make recommendations, perhaps with tax efficiency in mind? A solicitor will want to make choices for you but will be able to advise on the best and most practical way of putting your wishes into effect.
There are strict requirements about whether a Will is valid or not. If these are not followed invalidity cannot be remedied after you have died. This can cause unnecessary stress, expense and possibly litigation for those you leave behind, as can problems with individual gifts under a valid but poorly written Will.
Step 3 – Inheritance Tax
In brief, and currently, everyone can leave up to £325,000 Inheritance Tax free. The rest is taxed at 40%. The value subject to tax includes your estate, gifts that you have made in the seven years prior to your death and the value of some property held in trusts. If you are leaving your home to any combination of your children, stepchildren, and their descendants then an extra £175,000 can be tax free if it can be offset against the value of hat house or flat.
There is also no Inheritance Tax on inheritances by husbands and wives, but you must be married or in a Registered Civil Partnership at the date of death to benefit from this. Unmarried couples miss out. Married couples can also share these allowances and with careful planning leave £1,000,000 Inheritance Tax free.
Gifts to charities made in wills are also Inheritance Tax free.
Your solicitor can discuss Inheritance Tax with you and the tax efficient methods that can be used to maximize your estate.
Step 4 – Ensure your wishes have been followed
It is important that you discuss your estate with your solicitor completely and fully so that they know exactly what you wish for your estate when you die and help you to ensure that your Will reflects your wishes, wants and needs.
Step 5 – Storing your Will and registration with Certainty
It is important to store your Will in a safe place so it can be easily located when the time comes. At Gilbert Stephens Solicitors, we store our clients’ Wills free of charge. Alternatively, if you wish to keep and store your Will at home, please ensure that it is stored in a safe place.
Additionally, you may be able to store your Will at your bank, with other companies offering safe storage or with the probate service. There may be charges for storage of your will by banks, storage companies and the London Probate Service.
If your Will is held by a firm of solicitors, you can also register its location with Certainty: National Will register. This service simply records the date of your Will and where it can be located to enable it to be found by your family. This is a useful tool if a Will cannot be located and in checking that a particular Will is, indeed, someone’s last Will (and not an earlier Will they have revoked). Certainty do not store Wills; the company keeps a register of where Wills registered with them are held.
If you would like to discuss making a Will, please telephone 01392 424242 and ask to speak to a member of our Private Client team. We have advisors in each of our 6 offices. Alternatively send an email to and a lawyer from our team will be in touch.