Making a will ensures that, when you die, your property and other possessions go to the people that you choose.
Solicitors often help clients to draw up their wills and act as executors of estates, as they are trained and experienced in the legal processes involved.
Your will outlines what you want to happen to your possessions, including any money or property that you own, after you die. If your will is valid, any debts that you owe will be paid from your estate, and the remaining assets will be distributed to the people named in your will. An ‘executor’ (or executors) named in your will is usually responsible for carrying out your wishes.
A valid will
A will can only be considered valid if:
- It is made in writing.
- The person making the will (the testator) is over 18 years old, or has been married.
- The testator has capacity to make a will.
- The testator signs or marks the will, at the end of the document, and acknowledges it in the presence of two witnesses.
- The testator’s two witnesses also sign the will in the presence of the testator.
- Neither of the testator’s witnesses – or their spouses or civil partners – receive anything in the will. Gifts to them will not be effective.
Your solicitor can offer important advice to help you make a valid will.
When you die, your spouse or civil partner has a legal right to part of your estate. In certain circumstances, an unmarried cohabitant (called a ‘qualified cohabitant’) who is dependent on you may have a right to sue the estate for payment on your death. Talk to your solicitor to learn more about this.
If you die without making a valid will, you will have died ‘intestate’. This means that an administrator will pay any of your outstanding debts from your estate (all your possessions and assets), and then distribute those assets among your living relatives according to a set formula. However, the process is usually more complicated and expensive than it would be with a valid will.