Getting your will written isn’t the most exciting job, but it can be a big relief and a weight off your mind for the future. You want to know that once you’re gone, what you leave behind goes to all the right people and places. Ensuring you’ve written a will can help to make sure this happens.

What is a will?

A will is a legal document that outlines what you'd like to happen with your money, property, and any other assets, after your death.  This is known as your estate.  It will also state who's responsible for managing this process by naming them as an executor, or executors if you want more than one.

How do I write a will?

First thing’s first, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to write your will. No one will is the same, so there’s more than one way to do this.

Writing your own will

You can write your own will if you’re…

  • over the age of 18 (in England and Wales) or over the age of 12 in Scotland
  • of sound mind
  • writing your will voluntarily without any pressure from other people
  • you have two witnesses that are not named as beneficiaries to countersign. 

A will is a legally binding document, so getting it right is crucial. We don’t suggest going into the process blind. To help, you can find templates online, or you can even buy a kit to help you get started. Just make sure you’ve done your research before you begin.

If you miss something out or skip an important part of the process, your estate may have to be dealt with under the rules of intestacy. This means that if you die without a valid will, your assets might not be shared in the way you’d like them to be.

Employing a solicitor

There are a couple of reasons you might prefer to have the keen eye of a solicitor when it comes to writing your will. It might be as simple as you not feeling comfortable or confident enough to make a will without someone from a legal background to advise you. Or, you could have a more complex estate where you own a business or have property overseas. There might even be complicated family matters at play. Hiring a solicitor can help ensure that there are no – or minimal – legal complications after your death. They can also advise on things like inheritance tax.

Using a will writing service

Will writing services can be used online or over the phone, and in person in your home. These services may be cheaper than employing a solicitor and are useful if you’d like help writing your will but don’t want advice from a solicitor. Just be sure the service you intend to use is a member of a professional body, like the Institute of Professional Will Writers  Footnote [1]  .

Other will writing services

It’s  worth checking your home or car insurance. Some offer a free will-writing service under legal protection cover. Some trade unions also offer it.

Choose your executor or executors

When you write your will, you’ll need to choose executors to administrate your estate. They’ll help to carry out your wishes, and will be in charge of following the instructions you’ve outlined in your will. You can choose a beneficiary, a friend, or a relative for this position. If you’d rather have a professional deal with it, you can also choose an accountant, solicitor, or your bank.

What does a will cover?

When you write your will, you’ll need to decide how you’d like your estate to be shared out. The assets you would usually include are:

  • Your home, vehicles and any other property you own
  • Family heirlooms, personal items, pets and valuables
  • Bank and savings accounts, plus any pension or life insurance policies
  • Stocks and shares or investment trusts

Other things you might need or want to include in your will are:

  •  Who any children under 18 would live with in the event of your death
  • Any preferred funeral arrangements
  • What happens if a beneficiary dies before you
  • What you wish to happen to your business or business partnership. 

Is it free to write a will?

If you write your own will, it can be free.  We'd still recommend using a template, and as we've said - you'll need to have it witnessed and signed.  If you don't fancy writing your own will, but you don't want to spend much, you can use an online will writing service.  Or you could just wait until Free Will Month comes around.

A standard will writing service can be done where you feel most comfortable, like in your own home. They’ll usually charge a fee and may be cheaper than hiring a solicitor, but won’t be suitable for everybody.

Storing and changing your will

Your will can be stored with your bank, solicitor, will writing professional or within a national storage facility. Some people prefer to keep their will at home, but there’s always a risk of losing it to fire, flood or theft if it’s not protected properly. Your chosen executor(s) should know where your will is kept.

HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) also offers a secure storage facility   Footnote [2]. You can post your will or take it to the probate office (registry). You can withdraw it at any time and so can your dependents after your death.

What if I want to change my will?

If you want to change your will, you’ll need to make an official alteration called a codicil. You can’t just add to the original will as any alterations wouldn’t be acceptable. After you’ve written the codicil, you’ll need to sign it and get it witnessed as you did with your original will. You can make as many codicils as you need to over time.

Alternatively, you can make a completely new will. If you do this, you must explain that it revokes the previous will and the old will should be safely destroyed.

Want life insurance?

From just £5 a month, the price you'll pay depends on your chosen cover level and personal circumstances.

Life articles

Take a look at our latest news and guides.