When it comes to creating a Will, we’re often put off from doing so because of three things: confronting your death, the time needed to make a Will, and the cost.
And while getting in the emotional headspace to write a Will is something that only you can do, it is possible to create a Will fairly easily and for free.
The main reason for writing a Will is to ensure that when you’ve passed away, your estate – the things you own – is given to the people you want to have it.
To create your own Will, there are some key terms you need to understand:
Testator you, the person making the Will
Probate: the legal process carried out in court after the testator passes away — specifically to assess your Will and make sure it’s valid
Executor (or executrix): the person you name to settle your affairs and make sure your wishes, as outlined in your Will, are carried out
Guardian: the person you want to look after your children, elders, and/or pets if your spouse has also passed away or cannot care for them
Beneficiary: the people or organizations who you want to receive your assets
Assets: money, property, and other items of value
Witness: someone mentally fit and of legal age who signs your Will and can verify its authenticity
Can I really make my own Will?
Yes, you can make your own Will.
If you have a small estate and simple wishes, then going through a solicitor is not necessary.
You may need to get professional legal help if your affairs are complex, or your estate is very large.
What should I include in my Will?
You will also have to include the following:
Personal information about you – who are you?
Appointment of an executor – who will deal with the administration of your estate when you die?
Assets and beneficiaries – who will be given your estate when you die?
Designated guardians – who will look after any children under 18?
Signed witnesses – who will verify your Will has been made be you?
Appointing an executor
The executor is the person you want to settle your affairs with and make sure your last Will is entirely carried out. Think of an executor is an administrator
Your Will should also include a backup executor if your first-choice executor passes away or can’t serve. For instance, they are no longer in your life or suffer from a mental health condition.
Can my executor be paid?
Yes, you could arrange to pay the executor for their time. Commonly, this payment could be a percentage of your estate.
Assets and Beneficiaries
Your assets are your money and property. They can be real assets (tangible personal property, land, and houses) or digital assets (such as online accounts, including social media accounts and domain names, and money in various online accounts).
Identify all of your assets in your Will and what you want to be done with them after you pass away.
Beneficiaries are people and organizations from who you want to receive your assets.
These are usually family and friends, but they can also be charitable organizations (which can reduce any inheritance tax on your estate) and other institutions you donate your assets (like a university or church).
Before your assets are given to your beneficiaries, debtors collect what you owe them from your estate, for example, unpaid loans. The remainder is your residuary estate.
Also, note that only assets owned solely by you at your death are included in your estate.
For example, a joint bank account in your name and your spouse will not be part of your estate, as it becomes your spouse’s property. This also applies to homes, automobiles, land, life insurance, and an asset that includes more than one owner on the title or that specifies in the title who the beneficiaries will be.
Designate Guardians (if required)
A guardian takes responsibility for your dependent minors (children) or elders if you and your spouse are deceased or if your spouse cannot care for them after you pass away.
You can also use your Last Will to appoint a pet caretaker and set aside money for your pet’s care.
Plan and Pay for Your Funeral
When you write your Will, outline your funeral wishes. Include how and where you want it held and allocate money.
Also, if you expect significant medical expenses in the days before your death, put aside funds to cover them.
To make your Will official, it must be signed by both you and a witness over 18 and of sound mind who is not a beneficiary of your Will.
How to write a free Will
1) Add personal information
You should include:
Name, date of birth and national insurance number
Any spouse or children
2) Add executor information
Who will carry out the terms of the Will? They must be over 18 and do make sure you consult them before putting their name down.
You should also name a backup executor if your first choice cannot fulfil their duties.
3) Include executor compensation and powers
Mention if you want the executor to be entitled to be paid or given any specific powers when administering your estate
4) Specify the beneficiaries of your assets
Probably the most important bit of writing a Will.
Every part of your estate should have somebody’s name assigned to it. Even if you simply want to leave your entire estate to just one person, you should write this in the Will.
If you want to give some of your estate to anybody under 18, you should specify who should look after it on their behalf until they turn 18.
5) Appoint guardians
In this section, you’ll point guardians for any minors, elders you care for, or even pets. You can also designate funds to support the guardian’s extra responsibilities.
6) Assign witnesses and signatures
Witnesses need to sign the document indicating that you are of sound mind and that they witnessed you sign the document willingly (without undue influence). They should be over 18, of sound mind and not a beneficiary of the Will
Where should I keep my Will?
Once your Will is finished, simply keep it somewhere safe in your home and consider telling somebody where you’ve put it.
Effectively, a free Will is a document you’ve written, had witnessed and stored safely at home in something like a zip lock/airtight wallet. You may wish to take a copy or store an electronic version protected with a password.
For simple wishes on your death, there shouldn’t be any need to pay a solicitor. Or even pay to store it anywhere if you’re happy keeping at home.
What happens if change my mind?
If you need to make changes to your will, you simply need to destroy the existing one and start again.
Consider reviewing your Will every 5 years, or whenever there has been a major change in personal circumstances, for example, a family death or a relationship breakdown.
Writing a Will does not have to be as difficult as you think. And making a Will 'official' is actually quite simple.
Remember: if you die without a Will, the government will decide what to do with your estate. Even if your wishes are very simple, its better to take time to write them down and know that you've made your wishes clear.