How to write a will

As many as 60% of people die without a will in place, causing untold stress for their loved ones. Follow Moneywise TV’s step-by-step guide to writing a will, from working out your assets to ensuring any changes are honoured.

No one wants to think about dying – which is the main reason up to 60% of Brits die without a will in place. But failing to write a will not only means your assets could fall into the wrong hands, it could also cause untold stress for your loved ones.
If you die without making a will your estate will be divided according to the laws of intestacy. This means your money will distributed according to strict rules and certain people you might want to benefit could be excluded.

Writing a will doesn't have to be complicated, but it's important to do it correctly and to keep it up-to-date.

Start by totting up all your assets, including any life insurance policies, cash deposits and investments. You'll also need to take any debt – including your mortgage - into account and deduct the cost of your funeral. Next, you'll need to consider what legacies you wish to make. You can leave your entire 'worth' to one person, or divide fixed sums among named individuals. In addition to your will you can also write a letter of wishes stating who should receive valuable possessions like jewellery and family heirlooms. If you have children under the age of 18, your will is also an opportunity to say who you would like to take care of them in the event that you and their other parent dies. You also need to consider financial support for them after your death – usually by setting up a trust.

The easiest and cheapest way to write a will is to do-it-yourself, either by handwriting or typing up your bequests or using a high street will-writing pack. You'll need to get two people who have nothing to gain from your death to witness and sign your will, and store your will, preferably through a solicitor or at a bank.

However, this approach is only suitable for people with very straightforward financial circumstances. There is also a risk the tiniest mistake could render your will invalid.

A safer option could be a will writer. This is also cheap because will writers don't have to be qualified or regulated. Just make sure they a member of a recognised trade body such as the Institute of Professional Will Writers or the Society of Professional Will Writers.

The best option however is to use a qualified and Law Society-regulated solicitor – especially if you have more complex requirements, for example you have remarried or have an inheritance tax liability. As well as their expertise, you or your beneficiaries will be protected and entitled to redress should something go wrong. For help finding a qualified solicitor, contact the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners or the Law Society.

As your circumstances change, you will need to review your will. Changes can be easily made, ether by adding an addendum or by revoking the old will and drawing up a new one – not by altering the old will. You must of course get your new will re-witnessed, and possibly write a clause stating that you wish to revoke all previous wills and codicils.