Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /homepages/46/d729948304/htdocs/app735197770/wp-content/plugins/cornerstone/includes/utility/element-api.php on line 210

Do i need a Will in the UK?

It is important for you to make a will whether or not you consider you have many possessions or much money. It is important to make a will because:

  • If you die without a will, there are certain rules which dictate how the money, property or possessions should be allocated. This may not be the way that you would have wished your money and possessions to be distributed.
  • Unmarried partners and partners who have not registered a civil partnership cannot inherit from each other unless there is a will, so the death of one partner may create serious financial problems for the remaining partner.
  • If you have children, you will need to make a will so that arrangements for the children can be made if either one or both parents die.
  • It may be possible to reduce the amount of tax payable on the inheritance if advice is taken in advance and a will is made.
  • If your circumstances have changed, it is important that you make a will to ensure that your money and possessions are distributed according to your wishes. For example, if you have separated and your ex-partner now lives with someone else, you may want to change your will. If you are married or enter into a registered civil partnership, this will make any previous will you have made invalid.

Whether you should use a solicitor?

There is no need for a will to be drawn up or witnessed by a solicitor. If you wish to make a will yourself, you can do so. However, you should only consider doing this if the will is going to be straightforward.

It is generally advisable to use a solicitor or to have a solicitor check a will you have drawn up to make sure it will have the effect you want. This is because it is easy to make mistakes and, if there are errors in the will, this can cause problems after your death. Sorting out misunderstandings and disputes after your death may result in considerable legal costs, which will reduce the amount of money in the estate.

You should remember that a solicitor will charge for their services in drawing up or checking a will. They should give you the best possible information about the cost of their services. They should give you this at the beginning of their work with you.

Some common mistakes in making a will are:

  • Not being aware of the formal requirements needed to make a will legally valid
  • Failing to take account of all the money and property available
  • Failing to take account of the possibility that a beneficiary may die before the person making the will
  • Changing the will. If these alterations are not signed and witnessed, they are invalid
  • Being unaware of the effect of marriage, a registered civil partnership, divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership on a will
  • Being unaware of the rules which exist to enable dependants to claim from the estate if they believe they are not adequately provided for. These rules mean that the provisions in the will could be overturned

When it is particularly advisable to use a solicitor?

There are some circumstances when it is particularly advisable to use a solicitor.

These are where:

  • You share a property with someone who is not your husband, wife or civil partner
  • You wish to make provision for a dependant who is unable to care for themselves
  • There are several family members who may make a claim on the will, for example, a second wife or children from a first marriage
  • Your permanent home is not in the United Kingdom
  • You are resident here but there is overseas property involved
  • There is a business involved

Other help with writing a will

If you are a member of a trade union, you may find that the union offers a free will writing service. A union will often use its own solicitors to undertake this work.

There are books which provide guidance on how to draw up a will. These can help you decide if you should draw up your own will and also help you decide if any of the pre-printed will forms available from stationers and charities are suitable. It is also possible to find help on the internet.

Will-writing services are available. However, will-writing firms are not regulated by the Law Society so there are few safeguards if things go wrong.

If you decide to use a will-writing firm, consider using one that belongs to The Institute of Professional Willwriters which has a code of practice approved by the Trading Standards Institute Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS).

Traders in this scheme display the TSI approved code logo.

When you see the logo, it means that the trader has agreed to provide good standards of service including clear information before a contract is signed, a clear complaints procedure and access to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme for settling out of court.

How much does a solicitor cost?

The charges for drawing up a will vary between solicitors and also depend on the complexity of the will. Before making a decision on who to use, it is always advisable to check with a few local solicitors to find out how much they charge. You may have access to legal advice through an addition to an insurance policy which might cover the costs of a solicitor preparing or checking a will. If you are a member of a trade union you may find that the union offers a free wills service to members.

What should be included in a Will?

To save time and reduce costs when going to a solicitor, you should give some thought to the major points which you want included in your will.

You should consider such things as:

  • How much money and what property and possessions you have, for example, property, savings, occupational and personal pensions, insurance policies, bank and building society accounts, shares
  • Who you want to benefit from your will. You should make a list of all the people to whom you wish to leave money or possessions. These people are known as beneficiaries. You also need to consider whether you wish to leave any money to charity
  • Who should look after any children under 18
  • Who is going to sort out the estate and carry out your wishes as set out in the will. These people are known as the executors

Who are the executors?

Executors are the people who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes and for sorting out the estate.

They will have to collect together all the assets of the estate, deal with all the paperwork and pay all the debts, taxes, funeral and administration costs out of money in the estate.

They will need to pay out the gifts and transfer any property to beneficiaries.

Who to choose as executors?

It is not necessary to appoint more than 1 executor although it is advisable to do so - for example, in case one of them dies.

It is common to appoint 2, but up to 4 executors can take on responsibility for administering the will after a death.

The people most commonly appointed as executors are:

  • Relatives or friends
  • Solicitors or accountants
  • Banks
  • In England and Wales, the Public Trustee or in some cases the Official Solicitor if there is no one else willing and able to act
It is important to choose executors with considerable care since their job involves a great deal of work and responsibility.

You should always approach anyone you are thinking of appointing as an executor to see if they will agree to take on the responsibility. If someone is appointed who is not willing to be an executor, they have a right to refuse.

If an executor dies, any other surviving executor(s) can deal with the estate. If there are no surviving executors, legal advice should be sought.

Requirements for a valid will

In order for a will to be valid, it must be:

  • Made by a person who is 18 years old or over and
  • Made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person and
  • Made by a person who is of sound mind. This means the person must be fully aware of the nature of the document being written or signed and aware of the property and the identify of the people who may inherit and
  • In writing and
  • Signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses and
  • Signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the will, after it has been signed.
A witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a will. If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married partner or civil partner of a beneficiary), the will is still valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the will.

Although it will be legally valid even if it is not dated, it is advisable to ensure that the will also includes the date on which it is signed.

As soon as the will is signed and witnessed, it is complete.

If someone makes a will but it is not legally valid, on their death their estate will be shared out under certain rules, not according to the wishes expressed in the will.

Where to keep a will?

Once a will has been made, it should be kept in a safe place and other documents should not be attached to it.

There are a number of places where you can keep a will:-

  • At home
  • With your solicitor or accountant
  • With your bank
  • In England and Wales at the Principal Registry of the Family Division of the High Court, a District Registry or Probate Sub-Registry for safe keeping. If you wish to deposit a will in this way you should visit the District Registry or Probate Sub-Registry or write to:

Once a will has been made, it should be kept in a safe place and other documents should not be attached to it.

There are a number of places where you can keep a will:-

England and Wales -

The Probate Department
The Principal Registry of the Family Division
First Avenue House
42-49 High Holborn
London WC1V 6NP
Tel: 020 7947 6000

Northern Ireland -

The Probate Office
Royal Courts of Justice
Chichester Street
Belfast BT1 3JF
Tel: 028 9072 4678
Email: probate@courtsni.gov.uk

Looking for copies of a will after someone dies

Someone close to you may have died and you think they made a will but you can't find one in their home.

Check to see if you can find a certificate of deposit, which will have been sent to them if they arranged for the will to be kept by the Principal Registry of the Family Division.

Even if you can't find a certificate of deposit, you can still check with the Registry to see if they hold the will. If the person died in a care home or a hospital you could check to see if the will was left with them.

You should also contact the person's solicitor, accountant or bank to see if they hold the will. The person who has died, or their solicitor, may have registered their will with a commercial organisation such as Certainty (www.certainty.co.uk) and, after the person's death, you can pay for a search of the wills registered on the company's database.

You can also ask the company to contact solicitors in the area where the person lived to ask if they hold a will.

If you can't find a will, you will usually have to deal with the estate of the person who has died as if they died without leaving a will.

Getting a copy of the will when probate has been granted

When someone dies, the person who is dealing with their estate (for example, money and property) must usually get authorisation to do so from the Probate Service.

If there is a will, this authorisation is called a grant of probate.

When probate is granted, the will is kept by the Probate Service and any member of the public can get a copy.

In England and Wales

If you want to search for the will of a person who died recently, you can apply to the Probate Service for a standing search to be made.

They will check their records to see if a grant of probate has been made in the twelve months before your application, and they will continue to check for six months afterwards.

If a grant has been made, they will send you a copy of the grant and a copy of the will, if any. A fee is payable.

You can renew your search at the end of 6 months for a further fee. It may  be advisable to wait 2 or 3 months after the death before you apply for a search.

If you want to do your own search, or if you want to search for the will of someone who died more than twelve months ago, you can do a general search.

A general search by the Probate Registry will cover a four year period and a fee is payable. If you go to the Probate Registry to do the search yourself, no charge is made, but you still have to pay to get a copy of the grant of probate and the will, if any.

In Northern Ireland

The Probate Office will send copies of the wills that it holds direct to the individual. Fees should be paid by crossed cheque, bank draft or postal order made payable to the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals service.

The fee for an actual copy of the will is £6 or £11 for a certified copy.

There may be an additional fee for a search to be carried out depending on the information that you have about the will. In this case it is advisable to contact the Probate Office at the following address:

The Probate Office
2nd Floor, Royal Courts of Justice
Chichester Street
Belfast  BT1 3JF

Telephone: 028 9072 4678

If you need any further information with regards to Wills or any Estate Planning options to assist in the mitigation of inheritance tax, the protection of funds going to children or disabled beneficiaries via specific trusts, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will happily introduce you to our affiliated partner who specialises in UK estate planning.

*All costs mentioned are subject to change and are correct on published date