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Making a will

This section tells you everything you need to know to begin drafting your will in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. Below you will find a summary of what a will is and why you need one. If you would like to find out more information, click on the relevant links to access more articles.

What is a will?

A will is a written declaration setting out the way in which a person's property, assets and wealth is to pass on their death. It can also appoint a guardian for any children you may have who are under the age of 18 and appoint one or more executors (Appointing executors and guardians), who carry out the instructions in your will. If you die without a will, the state decides who gets what, without regard to your wishes or your heirs' or dependants' needs.

Why you need a will

It is important to make a will because:

  • If you die without a will, there are certain rules that dictate how your assets (comprising money, property or possessions) should be allocated. This may not be the way that you would have wished your money and possessions to be distributed. For more information on these rules, see Dying without a will
  • There are issues that can arise for couples who have not married or registered a civil partnership if there is no will because they cannot inherit from each other without one. The death of one partner may therefore create serious financial problems for the remaining partner if they haven't made a will.
  • If you have children, particularly children under 18 or children from another or previous relationship, you will need to make a will so that arrangements for the children can be made if you die.
  • It may be possible to reduce the amount of tax payable on the inheritance (Inheritance Tax) if advice is taken in advance and a will is made.

Having a will is the only way to be sure that your estate is dealt with according to your wishes when you die. Without a will, your assets may end up being distributed by prescribed rules. It is not the case, as many assume, that if a spouse or civil partner dies their estate will always automatically pass to their spouse or civil partner. In fact, a substantial amount may go to other relatives.

A will ensures therefore that your estate is distributed as YOU would like it to be, and that your loved ones are properly provided for. It may also help to ensure that the people you leave your estate to do not have to pay more tax than absolutely necessary. If you are not married or in a civil partnership, it is even more important that you make a will, particularly if you have a partner and/or children to whom you wish to leave many or all of your assets.

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What is the law guide

The Desktop Lawyer law guide aims to present the law to you in a comprehensive yet jargon-free and easy-to-read format. Our law guide is constantly kept up to date with changes in business and family law by our team of in house solicitors, and includes information across all the legal jurisdictions in the UK.

Our law guide is free to use. Where we provide documents related to this area of law, or where they may help you with any legal issue in this area, they will be listed to the right of this message.