can you write your own will

December 2023

Can You Write Your Own Will In December 2023


When faced with the responsibility of composing a will, one may ponder, “Can you write your own will?” Yes, it is possible to create a choice on your own.

However, several considerations include ensuring the document is legally valid and properly witnessed. This guide examines the process of writing a will and the potential obstacles that may arise.

Topics that you will find covered on this page

You can listen to an audio recording of this page below.

DIY Wills: The Basics and Limitations

A do-it-yourself will is a self-drafted legal document that specifies the disposition of an individual’s estate upon death.

Stationery stores and online platforms provide will templates and do-it-yourself will kits, making it more straightforward for individuals to draught their wills without assistance from an attorney.

However, do-it-yourself will bear certain risks, especially if not drafted with the necessary care and attention to legal requirements.

While do-it-yourself wills may be suitable for basic situations, estates or more complex circumstances may require professional assistance.

Incorrect wording, omission of essential information, or failure to comply with legal formalities can result in an invalid will, leading to disputes or the application of intestacy rules.

Legal Requirements for a Valid Will

Several legal requirements must be fulfilled to create a valid will in England and Wales. The person making the will (testator) must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind, able to comprehend the consequences of their decisions.

The testator must sign the will in the presence of two independent witnesses, who must also sign the document.

The witnesses must be of legal age and cannot be beneficiaries or spouses. If a witness or their spouse is named a beneficiary, the bequest to that person may be declared invalid.

To avoid invalidating your will or causing complications for your loved ones, your will must adhere to these legal requirements.

The Importance of Clear Instructions and Correct Wording

Using precise and plain language to convey your intentions is essential when writing your will. Ambiguity or improper wording in such wills may result in disputes, delays in the probate process, or even the will’s invalidation.

For example, the choice may be susceptible to interpretation or challenge if the language does not specify which assets will be distributed and to whom.

To avoid such complications, it is advisable to consult with a professional will writer or attorney with experience in this field. They can ensure the will is drafted correctly, accurately reflecting your wishes and adhering to all legal requirements.

Choosing Executors and Guardians

Appointing executors and, if necessary, custodians for minor children is essential to drafting a will. Executors are responsible for carrying out the instructions of your choice, managing your estate, and distributing your assets by the law that decides your wishes.

In contrast, guardians are appointed to care for your minor children in the event of your passing.

It is essential to select trustworthy and dependable individuals for these positions, as they will be responsible for making crucial decisions on your behalf.

To ensure a seamless transition and administration of your estate, you must also discuss your intentions with the designated individuals and obtain their consent.

The Role of Professional Will Writers and Solicitors

Professional will writers and solicitors guide, write and support those needing assistance with creating their own will beforehand.

A top-will write firm, service, or attorney can write and ensure that your will is drafted correctly, legally valid, and reflects your wishes. They can also write and guide on more intricate matters, such as estate tax planning and the formation of trusts.

Verifying a professional’s credentials and ensuring they are regulated by the appropriate bodies, such as the Law Society or the Solicitors Regulation Authority, before hiring them to assist with your will. 

This provides you and your estate with additional assurance and protection.

Inheritance Tax and Planning

When composing a will, inheritance tax is a crucial factor to consider. In the United Kingdom, an inheritance tax is imposed on estates whose value exceeds a variable threshold.

Effective estate planning can reduce the inheritance tax payable on your estate, allowing you to leave more of your assets to your beneficiaries.

Individuals with complex estates or who desire tax-efficient strategies are strongly encouraged to seek professional counsel.

A lawyer or will-writing service can help you comprehend the available tax allowances and exemptions and suggest strategies to minimise your estate’s inheritance tax liability.

Mirror Wills for Couples

Mirror wills are a popular option for married couples, civil partners, and cohabitants who desire to leave their assets to one another. Each companion names the other as the primary beneficiary of overseas property in their respective wills.

If both partners pass away simultaneously or the surviving partner dies without a new will, all the assets are typically distributed to the secondary beneficiaries in simple wills.

While mirror wills may be appropriate for couples with simple estates and shared wishes, it is essential to consider potential complications, such as remarriage or changes in family circumstances.

In such circumstances, consulting a professional can help ensure that your will remains current and reflects your current circumstances.

can you write your own will in the UK

Storing and Updating Your Will

After your will has been signed and witnessed, it is essential to preserve the original document safely. Inform your executors or a trusted family member of the location later date of your will so that it can be quickly retrieved if necessary.

Some individuals store their will with a lawyer, a will-writing service, or a storage facility.

Reviewing your will periodically or after significant life events such as marriage, divorce, or child delivery is crucial. If your circumstances or desires alter, your will should be updated consequently.

Sometimes, a codicil (a legally binding amendment to an important legal document) may suffice, whereas a new will may be required in others.

The Probate Process and Seeking Professional Help

Probate is the legal process that validates a will and facilitates the distribution of the deceased’s assets. The procedure can be complicated, especially for those with limited legal knowledge or experience.

In many cases, it may be advantageous to seek the assistance of a lawyer or will-writing service for help with the probate procedure.

A professional can guide you through the necessary steps, assist you in navigating any obstacles or disputes, and guarantee that the entire estate will is administered correctly and effectively. This can comfort and assist your executors and loved ones during a difficult time.

"A do-it-yourself will is a self-drafted legal document that specifies the disposition of an individual's estate upon death."

The Importance of Sound Legal Advice

Writing a will alone can be cost-effective for individuals with simple estates and wishes. However, the hazards and complexities of drafting a legally binding document for valid will not be understated.

Seeking professional counsel can help mitigate these risks by ensuring your will is accurate, exhaustive, and covered by all legal requirements.

In addition, professional advice and guidance can assist you in navigating complex issues such as estate tax planning and the distribution of overseas property.

Investing incompetent legal counsel can provide peace of mind and assurance that your estate will be administered to your wishes and in the best interests of your beneficiaries.

Considering Free Will Drafting Services

Under law society, you may be eligible to receive complimentary will-drafting services from specific organisations or charities.

Individuals who lack the financial means to employ a lawyer or a professional will writer may find these services to be a helpful resource. It is essential, however, to thoroughly investigate the service provider and confirm that they are reputable and trustworthy.

If you decide to use a free-will-writing service, it is essential to review the document meticulously to ensure that it accurately reflects your wishes.

Even if the service is free, obtaining a professional opinion or consultation may be advantageous to ensure that the new will is legally valid and by your wishes.

Legal Requirements for a Valid Will

Civil Partnership and Unmarried Partner Considerations

For civil partnership and unmarried couples, inheritance laws may not automatically provide for the surviving companion in the same way and manner as married couples.

Writing a will is especially important in these circumstances, as it enables you to specify your wishes and ensure that your partner will be provided for adequately in the event of your death.

Without a valid will, unmarried or civil partners may not inherit as expected, and intestacy rules may apply, resulting in the distribution of assets according to a predetermined legal formula. This may contradict your desires and result in financial hardship or family conflict.

Northern Ireland and Scotland: Different Legal Jurisdictions

The legal requirements for wills and inheritance laws may vary in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. However, you must know your legal jurisdiction’s rules and regulations when drafting your will.

If you own property or have assets in different regions of the United Kingdom, you should seek professional guidance to ensure your will complies with the local laws.

This can help prevent potential complications or disputes during the administration of your estate and ensure that your wishes distribute your assets.

Dangers of Improperly Drafted Wills

A poorly constructed will devastate your next family member and your entire estate. Incorrect wording, a lack of clarity, or failure to comply with legal requirements can result in family disputes, delays in the probate process, or even the invalidation of the will. 

These issues can stress your immediate family members and beneficiaries emotionally and financially.

To avoid these hazards, it is essential to take extra care when drafting your own will or to consider consulting a lawyer with expertise in estate planning and wills. 

This can help ensure that your will is legally valid, accurately reflects your intentions, and offers you and your loved ones security and peace of mind.

The Role of Video Calls and Remote Witnessing

Under certain conditions, remote witnessing of wills has become possible due to technological advancements and the increased use of video conversations. 

This option can provide added flexibility and convenience for individuals who have difficulty attending a physical will signing and witnessing.

However, remote witnessing presents risks and difficulties, such as ensuring that the video call connection is secure and that the will is accurately signed and witnessed correctly.

To ensure your will is legally valid and executable, you must familiarise yourself with the specific requirements for remote witnessing in your jurisdiction and consider seeking professional guidance.

Mirror Wills for Couples

Importance of Will Writing Services

Will writing services and professional will writers services and professional will writers services can provide expert guidance and assistance in drafting a legally binding document that precisely reflects your estate’s goals.

These free-will drafting services can benefit those with complex estates, foreign property, or specific bequests to specific charities or individuals. 

Professional will writing services, such as Co-op Legal Services, can ensure that your will is correctly witnessed and complies with the law.

When contemplating using a solicitor or professional will writer or will writing firm or service for particular people, it is essential to compare local solicitors and professional or will writing firms or writers based on their reputation, solicitor fees, and services provided.

In addition, the Solicitors Regulation Authority or another relevant governing body must govern them.

Mental Capacity and Safely Stored Wills

For a will to be legally valid, the testator must comprehend the nature and consequences of their decisions. This includes understanding the extent of their assets, the identities of their family members and beneficiaries, and the implications of their legacies.

Concerns about a person’s mental capacity when they create a will may be contested in the future, potentially leading to family disputes.

Once a will has been drafted, it is essential to retain it securely. This ensures that it stays in good condition and is readily accessible when required.

Numerous individuals store their original will with a lawyer, a will-writing service, or even use a solicitor or probate service. Alternatively, you can keep it at home but must be highly cautious and protect it from damage or loss.

DIY Wills and Will Templates

Creating a will using a will template can be cost-effective for those with uncomplicated estates and wishes. These templates are frequently available online or in stationery stores and can be modified to suit your needs.

It is essential, however, to thoroughly examine the will template you select to ensure that it complies with the legal requirements in your jurisdiction.

When creating a will on your own, it is crucial to be extra cautious with the language you write and to seek additional information if you are still determining any aspect of the process.

Errors or improper wording can result in a will that is invalid or has unintended consequences for the beneficiaries. If you have any concerns, seek counsel or further information from a professional or have a lawyer draught your will.

Considering Inheritance Tax and Insurance Policies

Inheritance tax is a crucial factor to consider when preparing your estate plan. Your beneficiaries may be required to pay inheritance tax on your assets under certain conditions. 

To minimise the will-pay inheritance tax burden, it is essential to comprehend the inheritance tax thresholds and rules and to plan accordingly.

Life insurance and other insurance policies can also play a role in estate planning. These policies may support your beneficiaries financially, assisting in paying inheritance taxes and other expenses. 

When drafting a will, it is essential to consider the impact of these policies on your estate and provide explicit instructions for their distribution.

Unmarried Partners and Civil Partners

Under inheritance laws, unmarried and civil partners may not be routinely provided for in the same manner as married couples. It is crucial to delineate your intentions for your partner in your will, including their share of your assets, personal possessions, and foreign property.

With a valid will, your companion may inherit by your wishes, and the law will determine how your estate is distributed.

Consulting a lawyer or a professional who will write a re-write service may benefit couples with more complicated circumstances or concerns. 

They can help you navigate the legal complexities and ensure your will is drafted correctly, giving you and your loved ones peace of mind.

The Value of Professional Advice in Will Writing

To ensure that your will is legally valid and accurately reflects your wishes, it is strongly advised that you seek professional assistance when drafting it.

A will writing service or attorney can guide you through the process and ensure that your will is accurately witnessed by two adults who are not related to you. In addition, they can assist with distributing the entirety of your estate, including all assets, to the intended beneficiaries.

The cost of a lawyer can vary based on the difficulty of your case and the solicitor’s requisite level of expertise. When deciding whether to use a professional or to construct a will on your own, it is crucial to carefully consider the solicitor’s fees and the value of their services.

In addition to guiding you through the legal aspects of your will, such as the distribution of property abroad, solicitors can advise you on any potential tax implications.

Witnessing Requirements and Importance of Accurate Wording

To be legally binding and valid, a will must be signed and witnessed accurately by two people. In most instances, two witnesses must observe the testator signing the document.

These two witnesses must also be impartial, meaning they cannot be beneficiaries or closely related to the testator. It is essential to ensure that your will is adequately witnessed to avoid disputes and legal challenges in the future.

Equally essential is the wording of a will, as incorrect or ambiguous language can lead to misunderstandings or disputes among beneficiaries.

This is especially true when specifying bequests to specific charities or individuals. It is essential to thoroughly review the language of your will and seek additional information or professional guidance if you have doubts about the wrong wording of any critical document.

DIY Wills and the Importance of Proper Storage

A do-it-yourself will can be a cost-effective alternative to hiring a lawyer for those with straightforward wishes and uncomplicated estates.

DIY wills can be drafted using templates found in most stationery shops and stores or online and are appropriate for plain and simple choices that do not contain complex legal requirements.

However, it is essential to exercise extreme caution when composing a DIY will and use a solicitor to review the document for accuracy and legal compliance thoroughly.

Once your will is complete, you must store it safely and securely, regardless of whether a professional prepared it. A will that is properly and stored safely will remain in good condition, be easy to locate, and reduce the likelihood of disputes or challenges.

Options for storing a will include keeping it in a secure location at home, with a lawyer, or at a facility dedicated to will storage.

Inheritance Tax and Planning

Considering Civil Partners and Specific Bequests

Like married couples, civil partners have certain inheritance privileges. It is essential to specify your intentions in your will to ensure that your civil partner is provided for in the manner you desire. 

This includes the distribution of property, assets, and personal belongings. When making specific bequests to specific individuals or organisations, it is crucial to use precise language to avoid confusion or disputes.

If you have doubts about your ability to communicate your wishes effectively, it may be best to have your will drafted by an attorney. 

In addition, it is essential to periodically evaluate and update your will as your circumstances change to ensure that it accurately reflects your intentions.

Meet the author

Jane Parkinson

Jane Parkinson

Jane is one of our primary content writers and specialises in elder care. She has a degree in English language and literature from Manchester University and has been writing and reviewing products for a number of years.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How many witnesses are needed for a will?

For a will to be legally valid in the United Kingdom, it must be witnessed correctly by two independent adults. These two adult independent witnesses cannot be beneficiaries of the will or closely related to the testator. It is essential to ensure that your choice is adequately witnessed correctly by two adult independent witnesses to avoid disputes and legal challenges in the future.

How much money does using a solicitor for you will writing services cost?

The cost of having a lawyer draught your will can vary based on the complexity of your situation and the level of expertise required. Complex estates or specific bequests to particular individuals or organisations may necessitate additional legal knowledge, increasing the cost of drafting a will. When determining between using a solicitor for professional choice and a will writing firm for a firm do-it-yourself resolve, it is crucial to consider using a solicitor whose fees and the benefits of their will writing services are.

What is the difference between using a solicitor and creating a DIY will?

Using a lawyer provides expert guidance, ensures that your will is drafted correctly and witnessed, and may provide additional assistance in navigating complex legal situations. On the other hand, a do-it-yourself will can be a cost-effective option for those with uncomplicated wishes and estates. Wills can be drafted on one’s own using templates found in stationery stores or on the Internet. However, when composing a DIY will, it is crucial to be extra careful, carefully check over the document for accuracy, and seek additional information as necessary.

How should I store my will once it has been finalised?

Whether a lawyer drafted your will or you drafted it yourself, storing it safely and securely is crucial. A will that is properly stored will remain in good condition, be easy to locate, and reduce the likelihood of disputes or challenges. Options for storing a will include keeping it in a secure location at home, with a lawyer, or at a facility dedicated to will storage.

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