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  • Writer's pictureBrenden OSullivan

How Do I Make a Will? Step-by-Step Instructions for Beginners

Making a Will does not need to be complicated. The following steps will guide you through the process. If you have any questions, we are here to answer them. Use this guide together with our Simple Will Planner to note down key information about your assets and wishes, then send it to us and we will draught your Will for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the importance of having a Will and the legal requirements for it to be valid.

  • Carefully choose your executors, considering their responsibilities and your relationship with them.

  • Identify all your assets and clearly state your beneficiaries, including any special considerations for minors.

  • Draught your Will using a template or seek legal advice if necessary to ensure it meets all legal standards.

  • Ensure your Will is properly signed, witnessed, and stored, and remember to update it as necessary.

Understanding the Importance of a Will

Writing a will can be uncomfortable, requiring you to reflect closely and clinically upon your own mortality and the value of your possessions after you’re gone. Once it’s complete, though, a will is one of the most important documents you will ever create. Wills ensure your last wishes are respected in your absence. But how do you write a will? While the obvious—and most expensive—option is to visit an attorney, there are other options available. Here’s what you need to know.

Choosing Your Executors

An Executor is a person who you would like to administer your Will, ensuring your wishes are carried out. This role involves a variety of tasks, including distributing your estate, paying any debts, and handling any legal proceedings. It's crucial to choose someone you trust to manage these responsibilities effectively.

Deciding on the person to name as the executor or personal representative of your will can be difficult. You can choose a partner, close friend, a solicitor, another professional such as an accountant, or perhaps a charity. Ideally, you want to choose someone with a background in accounting, law, or tax preparation. It's also advisable to name at least one alternate in case your first choice is unavailable when the time comes.

If you can't find a suitable executor among your acquaintances, you might consider hiring a law firm or a specific attorney. Another option is to appoint a professional executor, such as a trust company. Make sure to discuss this with the potential executor to ensure they are willing and able to take on this level of responsibility.

Identifying Your Assets and Beneficiaries

Listing Your Assets

Organising and inventorying your assets is a crucial step in drafting your will. Assets are any possessions clearly belonging to you or titled in your name. Personal belongings, pets, property, and cash are all considered your assets. Take the time to clearly describe each asset so that when the executor is transferring the asset to its named beneficiary, there is no question about its identity. Be sure to check with your state about which assets you cannot include, such as trusts or certain investment accounts.

Choosing Your Beneficiaries

For each asset, name a beneficiary—the person, profit or non-profit organisation, or other entity to receive your asset(s) once you pass. You can choose one or many beneficiaries. If there is anyone who should not receive the asset in question, be sure to name them as well. List the full legal name of each of your beneficiaries, as well as their current addresses and their relationships to you. Most people list their immediate family members, but you can list anyone you'd like.

Special Considerations for Minor Beneficiaries

When naming minor beneficiaries, special considerations must be taken into account. Minors cannot directly inherit assets, so you will need to appoint a trustee or guardian to manage the assets until the minor reaches legal adulthood. This person will be responsible for ensuring that the assets are used in the best interest of the minor. Be sure to discuss this responsibility with the appointed trustee or guardian to ensure they are willing and able to take on this role.

Drafting Your Will

Drafting your will is a crucial step in ensuring that your last wishes are respected. While the obvious—and most expensive—option is to visit an attorney, there are other options available. Here’s what you need to know.

Using a Will Template

Using a will template can simplify the process. These templates are designed to cover all the necessary legal requirements and can be customised to fit your specific needs. Your will should cover your whole estate, so it's a good idea to draw up a list of your assets and debts. Then you have a clear idea of how much it's worth.

Writing Your Own Will

If you choose to write your own will, make sure to follow the legal requirements for a valid will in your jurisdiction. This often includes:

  1. Clearly stating that the document is your will.

  2. Including your full name and address.

  3. Naming your executors.

  4. Listing your beneficiaries and what they will receive.

  5. Signing and dating the will in the presence of witnesses.

When to Seek Legal Advice

While it is possible to draught your own will, there are situations where seeking legal advice is advisable. For example, if you have a complex estate, minor beneficiaries, or if you are unsure about the legal requirements. Consulting a solicitor can provide peace of mind and ensure that your will is legally sound.

Signing and Storing Your Will

Witnessing Requirements

To ensure your will is legally valid, you must sign it in the presence of witnesses. Check your local legal requirements as they can vary. Generally, you will need two adult witnesses who are not beneficiaries. In some cases, notarisation may also be required.

Where to Store Your Will

Once signed, store your will in a safe place. Consider the following options:

  • A fireproof safe at home

  • With your solicitor

  • A secure online document storage service

Make sure your executor knows where to find the will.

Updating Your Will

Regularly review and update your will to reflect any major life changes, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child. Aim to review your will at least every five years.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Making a Will

Not Being Specific Enough

One of the biggest mistakes people make with their wills is not being specific enough. Clearly outline your wishes to avoid any confusion or disputes among your beneficiaries. Make sure to include detailed descriptions of your assets and who should receive them.

Forgetting to Update Your Will

Life changes, and so should your will. Failing to update your will after major life events such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child can lead to unintended consequences. Regularly review and update your will to ensure it reflects your current wishes.

Not Informing Your Executor

Your executor plays a crucial role in carrying out your wishes. Ensure they are aware of their responsibilities and have access to your will. Not informing your executor can lead to delays and complications in the administration of your estate.

When making a will, it's crucial to avoid common mistakes such as not updating it regularly, failing to appoint a reliable executor, and not considering tax implications. To ensure your will is comprehensive and legally sound, visit our website for expert guidance and personalised estate planning services.

Conclusion

Creating a will is an essential step in ensuring that your wishes are honoured and your loved ones are provided for after your passing. While the process may seem daunting at first, following a structured approach can simplify it significantly. By identifying your assets, choosing an executor, and clearly stating your wishes, you can create a legally binding document that reflects your intentions. Remember, if you have any uncertainties, seeking professional advice is always a wise choice. Use this guide as a starting point, and take the necessary steps to secure peace of mind for yourself and your family.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Will and why do I need one?

A Will is a legal document that outlines how you want your assets distributed after your death. It ensures that your wishes are followed and can help prevent disputes among your heirs.

Who can be an executor of my Will?

An executor can be anyone you trust to carry out your wishes, such as a family member, friend, or a professional like a solicitor. It’s important that they are willing and able to take on this responsibility.

Can I write my own Will without a solicitor?

Yes, you can write your own Will using templates or DIY kits. However, it’s recommended to seek legal advice to ensure it meets all legal requirements and accurately reflects your wishes.

What happens if I die without a Will?

If you die without a Will, your assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. This may not align with your wishes and can lead to complications for your loved ones.

How often should I update my Will?

You should review and update your Will whenever there are significant changes in your life, such as marriage, the birth of a child, or acquiring new assets. Regular reviews help ensure that your Will remains current and valid.

Where should I store my Will?

Your Will should be stored in a safe place where it can be easily accessed by your executor. Common options include a safe deposit box, with your solicitor, or a secure location at home.

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