While nobody wants to dwell on the prospect of their own death, it’s important to make arrangements for the future. One of the most important aspects of this is having a valid will.
If you want to make any decisions about what happens to your assets, belongings and even your dependants when you die then yes, a will is vital.
Dying without a will is known as dying ‘intestate’, and it means your assets will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy.
While you might assume your assets will go to your nearest and dearest in the event of your death, that’s not always the case if you die intestate. This is especially problematic if you have a partner you are not married to or not in a civil partnership with, or if you’re separated (but not divorced from) a previous spouse.
Even if your circumstances are very straightforward, dying intestate could mean your loved ones will lose more of their inheritance to taxes and fees, and the process of distributing your estate is likely to be more complicated. Essentially, dying without a will can cause extra distress and inconvenience for your loved ones at an already difficult time.
Even if you don’t own any property or have any savings, a will can be a useful way of expressing your wishes for what happens when you die — from who gets your prized record collection to what music you want to be played at your funeral.
There are three main options available for writing your will, depending on your circumstances and budget:
Go to a solicitor: Doing things the traditional way can help to ensure your will is legally watertight, especially if your circumstances are fairly complicated (if you have assets overseas or run your own business, for example). However, it’s also typically the most expensive option, and you will need to pay a fee each time you amend or rewrite your will if you need to make any changes in future.
Write your own will: You can buy a pre-written template or even write up your own legally binding will from scratch if you follow strict guidelines. This is usually the cheapest option for creating a will, but bear in mind it can be risky to write your own will without any advice from a legal professional — if you make even a minor mistake your will may not be legally valid and your assets will be distributed under intestacy rules. A fully DIY option is only suitable if your circumstances are very straightforward (for example if you are married and want your whole estate to go directly to your spouse when you die).
Write a will online: There are a number of online will writing services available, which bridge the gap between DIY will-writing and a full solicitor service. If you use an online service such as Farewill, you’ll be guided through the process and have legal professionals on hand. Your will is then checked by an expert and can be amended easily. This option is suitable for if you live in England or Wales and your circumstances are fairly simple (if all your assets are within the UK, for example). An online will writing service can be cost effective in comparison to a solicitor service.
Firstly, make sure you choose a reputable online will writing service. Look for one that offers expert help and a checking service rather than an online template, and preferably one you can make changes to if your circumstances change in the future.
Once you’ve chosen your online will writing service, you’ll fill in an interactive form with all the details you’d usually include in a will.
Not only do you decide who your money and other assets are left to, you can also use your will to lay out funeral plans and arrange to leave gifts — whether that’s a sentimental item to a friend or relative, or a financial sum to charity.
You can also use your will to appoint guardians for children under 18 or other dependants (and don’t forget your pets too).
Once you’ve completed your details, they’ll be checked by a legal professional and drafted into a legally binding will, which should then be printed and signed in the presence of two witnesses.
You’ll then need to store your will safely (you can also pay a fee for a will storage service). With an online will writing service you can easily amend your will at any time if anything changes.