Pen Widdrington (Senior Partner) gives expert video advice on: What is a will?; Why should I make a will?; Can I make more than one will? and more...
What is a will?
A will is a written document, which sets out the wishes of a deceased person, as to what they want to happen to their assets, how they are to be distributed. A will is governed by the Wills Act of 1833. That act has been amended on various occasions, but it still sets out the basics. It's in writing, it appoints executors, it's signed and dated, and is witnessed by two people.
When should I make a will?
You should make a will when you have assets to dispose of to direct your family, wherever it may be, as to how you want these assets to be divided. In basic terms, I suppose you make the will when you have acquired assets. It may be when you've acquired a house, but there is no point in making a will if you have no assets.
Who can make a will?
Anybody who is not living in Wales can make a will. They have to be of sound mind and they have to be over the age of 18 in order to make a will.
Why should I make a will?
There are many reasons for making wills. You want to share your wishes as to how you wish to benefit your family and friends, and these may be different from the rules relating to intestacy. Intestacy is the word that we use to describe a situation where somebody doesn't have a will. There are statutory rules of entitlement for people who die intestacy. You may wish to make your will in such a fashion that it overrides, that is different from the rules relating to the statutory inheritance rules which apply if somebody dies without a will.
Can I make more than one will?
When it comes to writing a will, generally speaking, people make one will to deal with all their assets. The will can be amended, that's done by way of a codosil. There is a problem if you make more than one will, as in general terms a subsequent will, will revoke the previous will. You can make more than one will, but it is unusual. People normally do it and make more than one will in situations where perhaps they might have assets abroad and they might make a separate will dealing with their assets abroad.
Do my assets have to be of a certain value before I can make a will?
With wills, it does not matter about the value of your assets being a certain value before you can make a will, but there is little point in making a will if you have no assets of any description or worth, whether sentimental or financial. There's simply no point to it. However, you don't have to have, say, 1,000 pounds in assets to make a will; you can do what you like.
How long is a will valid for?
A will is valid forever. Unless you change it, it's revoked by a subsequent will normally. There are various other instances when a will can be revoked, for example, if you marry, a will made prior to marriage is revoked by the marriage. Similarly, if you are divorced, references to the other spouse in the will are deemed deleted; it's as if the divorced spouse that might be mentioned in the will is dead.
Where should I keep my will?
My advice to people is that they should keep their will at a bank or with their solicitor, rather than to keep it at home. There are occasionally very extreme cases of tampering with wills. You're cutting down on the likelihood of the will being tampered with if it's in a secure place rather than at home.
How long does it take to make a will?
In general terms with a simple will, it probably takes two weeks or so to prepare the will. First of all, we see the client, take instructions. Then we prepare a draft; send it for the client's approval, the client returns it approved or amended and we then have it typed out and get the client back in to sign up. This process should take two weeks or so, but if there are more complicated issues i.e. inheritance tax planning, then it may take longer.
How much does it cost to make a will?
How much a will costs to make obviously depends on where you live. It would probably cost you more in London or other major urban centre than in the country. The charge out rates for wills are different for the firms in the country and in the city. It also depends on complexity. You should really ring up your solicitor and ask how much it's going to cost. For straight forward husband and wife wills dealing with their assets in a simple fashion, it would probably cost £150 or so in my area for the two wills.