Wills & financial planning
Writing a will and sorting out your financial affairs can bring peace of mind. Doing these things throughout the life course means that we are prepared if the unexpected happens. It’s the only way you can be sure that your wishes and plans are carried out.
Making a will ▾
The ‘Last Will and Testament’ or will lets you decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death.
If you have children under the age of 18, you also have to name a guardian in your will who you would like to be responsible for your children if they are orphaned before they reach 18.
A will can also include information about your preferred funeral arrangements.
If you make a will, you can also make sure you don’t pay more Inheritance Tax than you need to.
For a will to be legally valid, it must be in writing and:
- Made by a person 18 or over
- Made voluntarily
- Made by a person of sound mind
- Signed by the person making the will in the presence of 2 witnesses
- Signed by the 2 witnesses, in the presence of the person making the will
Download our Will Writing Misconceptions leaflet
How do you write a will?
There are three main options:
- Use a solicitor
- Use a will writing service
- Do it yourself
Check out the pros and cons of each option on the Money Advice Service website.
Legal advice from a solicitor will help ensure your will is interpreted in the way you wanted. The more complicated your situation is, the more likely you will need legal advice. For example: if you have been married before, if you have children from another marriage or if you have property overseas, legal advice can provide peace of mind. Find out more from the Money Advice Service.
How much will a solicitor charge?
A single will drawn up by a solicitor can cost between £125 and £300 or between £200 and £400 for a couple. This will vary depending on your circumstances. It's always best to call a number of solicitors to check out their prices.
November each year is Will Aid month. Solicitors will waive their usual fee, inviting you to make a donation to the Will Aid charities instead. Suggested donations are £90 for a basic single will or £135 for a pair of basic mirror wills.
A number of solicitors and will writing services offer ‘online wills’. Often this means that an individual can complete most of the will online, however, in order for the will to be a legal document it will have to be printed on paper and signed in ink by the appropriate witnesses. A ‘digital will’ does not replace a Last Will and Testament in the UK.
Reviewing your will
You should review your will every five years and after any major change in your life change such as getting separated, married or divorced, having a child, moving house and if the executor (the person you’ve chosen to carry out your will), named in the will dies.
Keeping your will safe
You should tell your executor, family members and/or a close friend where it is.
What happens if you die without a will ▾
What happens if you die without a will?
If you die without a will, the laws of intestacy determine who will inherit your money, property and possessions. This may not be what you want. This can mean that someone you want to pass things on to ends up with nothing or someone you hadn’t intended to pass things on to gets everything. For example:
Dave and Sam had lived together for over 20 years but were not married and not in a civil partnership, When Dave died without a will, Sam was not legally entitled to anything.
When Bob died without a will, his whole estate automatically went to their father, who had left him and his brother many years earlier and hadn’t been in contact since. His brother, who he was close to, got nothing.
Find out what would happen to your money, property and possessions after your death if you don't have a will. Visit the Government website.
Inheritance tax ▾
An estate is made up of anything that has a value (an ‘asset’), including money, property and land, personal belongings, furniture, cars, shares, trusts, pensions that include a ‘lump sum’ payment on death and a payout from a life insurance policy.
If you live for seven years after making a gift to someone, it’s exempt from Inheritance Tax regardless of the value. For example, if you give your children some money, and you live for another seven years, it won't be counted as part of your estate when you die.
Find out more from the Money Advice Service.
Keeping documents safe ▾
Things will be a little more straightforward for those people that sort out your affairs following your death, if you keep the following documents safe and accessible:
- Funeral plan
- Birth certificate
- Marriage or civil partnership certificate
- Divorce papers
- Property deeds
- Mortgage account
- Driving licence
- Stocks and share certificates
- Life insurance policies
- Pension documents
- TV license
You could also prepare a document that includes the following information:
- A list of your parents, siblings, marriage, civil and/or partners and children with their date of births and contact details
- A list of those people close to you who you want to be informed of your death
- Your solicitor and contact details
- Your bank account details and information about savings accounts, loan accounts and credit card accounts
- A list of your utility providers and contact details
- A list of satellite TV, telephone and mobile telephone providers
- Information about your online world including bank accounts and social media.
It is important that the above documents are accessible to those people you trust. Howver, it is also important that the documents are securely saved just in case the house is burgled.
The above lists are not intended to be exhaustive. For a comprehensive list of documents and instructions is included in the Age UK factsheet Planning for a funeral – please see page 24 onwards.
The Department of Work and Pensions is developing the Tell Us Once scheme that shares the notification of a death across many organisations, departments and offices.
Your digital online world ▾
More and more people conduct their banking and financial matters online and use social media platforms such as Facebook, You Tube, Twitter and LinkedIn. An individual’s online and digital content can be very important to them and their family and friends after they have died. The content could also have a monetary value e.g. music, film, photographs and books.
A digital will is a secure online storage facility that allows an individual to keep their entire internet access details and content together in one online space. On the individual’s death the username and password for their digital will is then passed on to whomever they have nominated.
Three steps to a digital will
- Awareness - write a proper inventory of all online accounts, so that loved ones know they exist
- Access - work out what details are necessary to gain entry to the accounts
- Wishes - detail who you want to grant access to, and whether you want data destroyed, passed on, or sent to a third party
This information is provided by www.thedigitalbeyond.com