How to make a will
Your will outlines who you would like your money, property, possessions or investments (your estate) to go to when you die.
If you don't make a will you will die 'intestate' and your estate may not go to the people you want.
Who can help me make a will?
A solicitor can help you make a will. If you don’t have a trusted solicitor, you can contact Solicitors for the Elderly. This national, independent network provides specialist legal advice for older people, their families and carers.
Professional will writers, some charities and some banks may also be able to assist you. In addition it is possible to make your own will but if you do this it is recommended you seek advice as this is a legal document and you need to be sure it has been written correctly and is valid.
What to include in a will
In your will there are some key things to outline, these include:
- details of who you want to leave your assets and possessions to – these people are called your ‘beneficiaries’
- specific details of who gets what
- who’ll carry out your wishes and sort out your estate when you die (this person is called your ‘executor’)
- who you want to look after any children under 18 (their ‘guardians’), and
- what happens if your beneficiaries die before you do.
Taking legal advice to help create your will
If your will isn’t straightforward, it’s a good idea to take legal advice before you create it.
For example, it can be a good idea to take legal advice about your will if:
- you have lots of family members who might make a claim on your estate. This could include:
- children from another marriage, or
- a second spouse
- you share your property with someone who isn’t your husband, wife or civil partner
- you own a business
- you’re leaving money or property to a dependant who can’t look after themselves
- you want to appoint guardians for any children or dependants you have who are under 18
- you own a property or have assets based overseas, or
- your permanent home is outside the UK.
Making your will legal
To make a legally-valid will, you must:
- be 18, or over
- put your will in writing
- make it voluntarily – it must be your decision to make it
- be of sound mind – you must have mental capacity when you make it
- sign it in the presence of two witnesses – both must be over 18, and
- get it signed by your two witnesses (both must be over 18) in your presence.
Your witnesses (or their married partners) can’t be beneficiaries for anything in your will.
Updating your will
Once you’ve made your will, it’s a good idea to review it:
- every five years, and
- after any major change in your life, such as:
- getting married (this cancels any will you made before)
- getting divorced – or separated
- having a baby – or adopting a child
- moving home, or
- if the executor or any of the beneficiaries named in your will die.
After your will has been signed and witnessed, you can’t amend it. The only way to change your will is by making an official alteration called a codicil.
To make an official alteration to your will, you must:
- sign a codicil, and
- get it witnessed – in the same way as witnessing a will.
There’s no limit to how many codicils you can add to your will.
When to make a new will
If you want to make significant changes to your will, you should make a new one.
Your new will must:
- be clearly dated
- explain that it revokes (officially cancels) all previous wills and codicils, and
- be created following the will-making process outlined above.
When you’ve made your new will, you should destroy your old will.
Keep your will in a safe place
It’s a good idea to keep your original will yourself AND store a certified copy of it with:
- your solicitor
- your banks
- a company that can store of wills – you can search online for these, or
- the Probate Service.
You must let your executors know where your will is kept.
Find out more about wills and probate
To find out more about wills and probate you can call gov.uk on 0300 123 1072.
Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, except on bank holidays.