Who should make a will?

If you care about what happens to your property after you die, you should make a will. Without one, the State directs who inherits, so your friends, favourite charities and relatives may get nothing.

It is particularly important to make a will if you are not married

(or are not in a registered civil partnership). This is because the law does not automatically recognise cohabitants (partners who live together) as having the same rights as husbands, wives and civil partners. As a result, even if you’ve lived together for many years, your cohabitant may be left with nothing if you have not made a will.

A will is also vital if you have children or dependants who may not be able to care for themselves. Without a will, there could be uncertainty about who will look after or provide for them if you die. We can also advise you on how inheritance tax affects what you own.

Checklist – you should also consider talking to us about making a will if:

  • Several people could claim your estate when you die because they depend on you financially;

  • You want to include a trust in your will (perhaps to provide for young children or a disabled person, save tax, or simply protect your assets in some way after you die);

  • Your permanent home is not in the UK or you are not a British citizen; you live here but you have overseas property; you own all or part of a business.

Once you have had a will drawn up, you should be aware that some changes to your circumstances – for example, marriage, civil partnership, separation, divorce or dissolution of your civil partnership – can make all or part of that will invalid or inadequate. This means that you must review your will regularly, to reflect any major life changes. We can tell you what changes may be necessary to update your will.

Why use a solicitor?

Although it is possible to write a will without a solicitor’s help, this is generally not advisable as there are various legal formalities you need to follow to make sure that your will is valid. Without the help of an expert, there’s a real risk you could make a mistake, which could cause problems for your family and friends after your death.

What we will need to know

Once you have appointed us, we will need the following details from you:

What you own

Details of everything you own, including property, cars, personal valuables, stocks and shares, bank accounts, insurance policies, any businesses you own, and pensions.

Who gets what?

Who do you want to leave these assets to? How do you want to divide your property between your loved ones, friends or charities? Are there any conditions you want to attach to these gifts (for example, that young people must reach a particular age before they are paid money you have left them)?

Family and other beneficiaries

Details of your family and status. Are you married, divorced or remarried? Or are you living with someone without being married to them or being their civil partner? Do you have any children or any other dependants? Anyone who depends on you financially can ask a court to review your will if they feel you have not provided properly for them. If you give your solicitor relevant details, they can tell you about any legal pitfalls.


If you have any children that may still be under 18 when you die, you may need to name someone as their legal guardian.

Other wishes

Do you have any particular wishes for your funeral? Do you want to be buried or cremated? Are there any other instructions? For example, if you want to be an organ donor this can be included in your will. However, it is also a good idea to record your wishes on the organ-donor register, or to carry an organ-donor card.

Executors of your will

You must also name the people you want to appoint as ‘executors’ of your will – the people who carry out the administration of your will after your death. These could be friends or family members, or a professional such as your solicitor. A good combination would be a friend or family member and a professional. Ideally, you should choose someone familiar with financial matters. Make sure you ask your executors whether they are happy to take on this duty as there are long-term responsibilities involved, particularly if you include a trust in your will. It is a good idea to ask someone younger than you are.

Signing the will

Once the will has been drawn up it is not effective until it has been signed. Several rules are affecting the signature process which, if not followed correctly, will make your will invalid. 

Where to keep the will

It is important to keep your will in a safe place and tell your executors or a close friend or relative where it is. We will store your will securely for you.

Keeping your will up to date

You should review your will at least every five years and after any major life change such as getting separated, married or divorced, having a child or moving house. It is best to deal with any major changes by getting a new will drawn up. It is also possible to make minor changes (or ‘codicils’) to your existing will.

If you have any other questions or are thinking about making a will, get in touch with us today.

The contents of this post do not constitute legal advice and are provided for general information purposes only