Our guide to making a will can help you with all aspects of writing a will, including how to approach it and whether you need professional advice.
- Making a will can be a huge practical and financial help to those left behind when you’re gone.
- It’s possible to write a will yourself, but it’s worth considering professional help for such an important document.
- Store your will securely and let the appropriate people know how to find it.
- Periodically review your will and make any necessary changes in the correct manner.
Your loved One’s will benefit
No-one likes to think about it, but preparing for your own passing by writing a will can be of enormous benefit to your loved ones after you’re gone, and could even save you money on your life insurance costs.
A will can perform a range of functions, but its core purpose is to determine what happens to your estate – your money, property, and possessions – after you die.
If you die without a will it’s called ‘intestacy’ or ‘dying intestate’; in such a case, the laws of intestacy will determine what happens to your estate.
However, even if those destined to receive your estate may seem obvious, failing to write a will can lead to the recipients having to pay more in inheritance tax than they need to.
Avoiding this by making a will can even save you money during your lifetime.
If your dependants will have to pay less inheritance tax it may mean you can make a smaller provision for their support after you’ve gone, perhaps cutting the premium you pay for products such as life insurance.
What else can a will help with?
Perhaps the most important role a will can fulfill is determining who should look after any children or step-children under the age of 18.
It should also say what happens if any or all of the benefactors named in it die before the will’s maker.
A will should name the executors; those charged with sorting out the estate and administering it according to the wishes laid out in the will.
An executor may be a friend or relative, a bank, a solicitor and/or an accountant. If there isn’t an executor, or there’s no surviving executor, legal advice should be considered.
In addition to these core functions of a will, it can be used to determine any number of other individual issues, such as funeral arrangements, or who looks after surviving pets.
Making a valid will
While there can be huge benefits associated with writing a will, if you make an invalid or unclear one it can actually multiply problems.
To start with the basics, a will can only be valid if when you make it:
- You’re of sound mind.
- You’re 18 or over.
- It’s done voluntarily.
- It’s made in writing.
The will must be signed in the presence of two qualifying witnesses (who must also sign the document); qualifying criteria include that the witnesses are over 18 and that they’re not beneficiaries of the will.
Can I write my own will?
It’s possible to write a will yourself and with a quick online search you can find basic templates to help, but you should remember the problems that can be associated with an unclear will, especially if your arrangements are anything other than entirely straightforward.
It’s always worth thinking about taking professional legal advice before writing a document as important as your will.
If you are taking the DIY approach to will writing, it’s certainly worth considering getting help from Citizens Advice.
Using a solicitor to write a will
It’s always worth thinking about taking professional legal advice before writing a document as important as your will, but this will be especially true in cases where your arrangements are less than straightforward.
- If you have a business
- You share a property with someone who isn’t your wife, husband or civil partner
- There are complicated family arrangements that may lead to a claim on the will eg if there are step-children, or you’ve had more than one marriage
- Your permanent home is outside of Ireland and/or you have property outside Ireland
- Beneficiaries of the will include people who can’t care for themselves
The price charged by solicitors for writing a will varies, as does the standard of work and quality of service they offer.
- Financial guidance and advice
- How the life insurance industry works
Storing a will
It is, of course, important to keep your will safe and there are a variety of options open to you.
You may simply keep it in a secure place at home, store it with your bank or solicitor, or with a company that offers will storage as a dedicated service (such firms can be easily found online).
Just as important as storing a will is letting the appropriate people know where to find it when you’ve gone; you may want to tell your close family, friends and/or the executor(s).
Changing a will
However carefully you arrange your affairs, over time there are likely to be events that make it appropriate to change a will.
You may, for example, move house, have children or grandchildren, divorce or remarry, become estranged from, or reconciled to, people.
If you need to change your will there are a number of options available.
Using a codicil
A codicil is an official alteration to a will and is the only way to change an existing will.
It may be as simple as a single word change, or it may involve a significant rewriting of the entire will, but it’s generally felt that a codicil should only be used for small changes.
As with a will, a codicil has to be made voluntarily, in writing, by a person of sound mind, and it must be signed in the presence of two qualifying witnesses (who must also sign the codicil).
It’s possible to make more than one codicil, but the more that are made the greater the potential for complication and confusion.
What’s more, a codicil can get lost and any complication can lead to delays and disputes when it comes to administering the will.
Writing a new will
Given the potential problems associated with using a codicil, if there are anything other than small changes to your original will it’s worth thinking about making a new one.
Should you choose this option, follow the steps outlined above to get the will right, but note that there’s an important additional thing to remember…
The new will must state clearly that it revokes any previous will or codicil. Any previous will or codicil (and any copies) should be destroyed to avoid confusion and dispute.