How to write a will: Step-by-step guide

Although it may sound daunting, writing your will is actually rather straightforward. Writing a will is the only way to ensure your assets, possessions and investments are passed over to people or causes that you care about. As long as the content you are planning to put in your will is simple, you will be able to write your own will quite easily.

Writing your will

Step 1: Valuing your estate

The first step in writing any will is to find a rough sum of all your assets and debts. Begin by writing a list of all assets, which could include property, savings in bank accounts or building societies, premium bonds, insurance policies, pension funds, investment stocks and shares, vehicles, belongings such as jewellery, antiques, furniture and other items within your household. Then make a note of any debts in your name, such as existing credit card balances, mortgages, overdrafts, loans and equity release. It should be noted that the value of assets will change over time, so it is important for your will that you get them valued regularly.

Step 2: Dividing your estate

How you divide your estate is incredibly personal, and something that is very important to many. You want to make your choice for who gets what in your estate very clear and concrete, so you can have peace of mind for after your passing. It is therefore necessary to think thoroughly about a list of people that you would like to benefit from your will, anything that you would particularly want to be given to a specific person, where any property or money left over should go, and what should happen in the occasion that a beneficiary dies before you.

Step 3: Do you want to donate to charity?

Many feel very passionately about leaving some of their personal assets to a charity that means something to them. Is there a charity that you would like to gift to in your will? Once you have decided on a gift and a charity, it is important to write the charity’s full name in your will, followed by its address and registered charity number. This ensures there is no confusion, and your money will reach the charity securely.

Step 4: Appoint executors

Executors make sure that your will is executed and assets distributed accurately after you have passed. An executor should be someone you trust and feel that your will is in safe hands with. You should also bear in mind that the job of an executor can be stressful, consisting of lots of work and responsibilities. Be careful when appointing your executors and make a considered choice.

Step 5: Begin writing

There are several methods for writing your will, each best suited to different needs and estates. One of the most common options is to write a will through a lawyer. A lawyer can give you the best advice in wills and probate, just be sure the lawyer is licensed with the relevant professional body. Other options include professional will writers, charities, banks, or making your own will. If using a professional will writer, please note that not all will writers are qualified solicitors and you should check that your chosen writer is a member of the Institute of Professional Will writers. Charities are a great option for free will-writing services, and banks offer help and information for estate-planning. If you decide to write your will yourself, it is important that you make sure it is valid, written and signed correctly. A will is a legal document and seeking advice is always a good idea.

Step 6: Sign your will validly

For a will to be valid, it absolutely must be signed in the presence of an independent witness. If you are unsure about the validity of your will or just want to be sure, make sure you seek professional or legal advice.

Step 7: Store your will in a safe place

A valid will provides a lot of peace of mind that your belongings, assets and loved ones will be taken care of when you are no longer around – so you want to make sure it is stored safely and securely to maintain its validity. Many choose to leave their will in the hands of their solicitor, their bank, a probate service, or to store their will securely in their home. Many online services are available that help you find your local probate service. Once you have decided where to store your will, it is necessary to let all executors know exactly where your will is kept so that they can execute it correctly when the time comes. Remember to not attach anything to your will with paperclips or staples - the marks can leave questions as to whether any pages are missing.

Following these steps will provide you with a valid and well-rounded will, however after writing your will you should still make sure to check your will is legally valid, find out when updates may be necessary and how to do so. Without making a will your estate may end up in the hands of strangers or those you would not want to have it. If you are wondering how to make your funeral wishes known to your loved ones, such as your specific requests for the service and where it should be held, it is best to create a fresh document that is entirely separate from your will. Today, will writing is a simple and pain-free process, and these steps make it simple.