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How do I write a will for free?

03rd January 2019

Writing a will is incredibly important, there can be little doubt about that. And yet seeking professional financial advice and going through solicitors to ensure that your will is correct and viable can seem an arduous and expensive task.

When it comes to writing your will, you may wonder whether or not it can be done for free. In this article, the IMC team take a look at what free options are available for doing so –  including the will writing kits available from almost any stationery shop for under £25 – and the viability of each.

 

The will writing process

Wills are legal documents. As such, it is very important for your will to be 100% accurate. Even very small mistakes such as crossings out can make your entire invalid, leading to none of your wishes being adhered to.

Your will should include who you would like your beneficiaries and executors to be, including their names, dates of birth and addresses. You will also want to ensure that you are aware of the value of your estate and know exactly how you intend to distribute your assets. It is important to seek out financial advice during this stage to ensure that you are fully aware of what your estate entails, as well as the monetary options open to you.

Opting for a professional will writing service can be costly, particularly if you have a complex estate involving, for instance, the distribution of businesses among your beneficiaries, or a number of beneficiaries of differing backgrounds. Despite this, if you have a reasonably straightforward estate that needs dealing with, fully certified will writing services should only set you back by around £200.

Theoretically, your will could be scribbled onto a notepad as long as two witnesses are present to watch you sign. However, there are many more aspects to the will writing process that change on a person-to-person basis. This is not recommended especially in cases when your estate is more complex than just leaving money to your spouse or an only child.

 

How can I do it for free?

If you are seeking a free alternative, there are a number of options you may be able to seek out.

 

Entitled to a free will

Some groups and organisations offer their members free will services as it is. A number of large trade unions such as the PCS, the NASUWT and Unison offer free or discounted will writing services and some employers will offer the services as part of any legal services benefits on offer.

You may also be entitled to a free will if your home or car insurance includes legal cover. Often, these wills are only suitable for simple estates, but it is certainly worth checking as you may have the opportunity to receive free legal advice at the very least.

Charity schemes

Some charities offer free will services to UK residents, although often with a suggested donation or in the hope that you’ll leave some of your estate to charity in the will. The most popular of these schemes is Will Aid which runs throughout November, with 900 solicitors offering free wills to anyone, regardless of age. Will Aid suggests that you donate £95, but it is entirely up to you. Other schemes include Free Wills Month for over 55s and Will Relief Scotland for Scottish residents.

Individual charities including Cancer Research and The Stroke Association also offer free or discounted wills on the premise that you leave a portion of your estate to them when you die. Remember, charitable donations are inheritance tax deductible and the amount you leave is up to you.

DIY will kits

Do-it-yourself will kits are growing in popularity and offer a basic template that you fill in to act as your will. These DIY kits are only suitable only for the most simple wills and tend to range in price from £20 – £30. (Even in simple cases, we wouldn’t recommend using one of these.)

Writing a will by yourself puts all of the legal responsibility on your shoulders, just one tiny mistake could result in the will not being a legally binding document. Unlike many other legal documents, when it comes to dividing the assets in a will, it will be too late to clarify exactly what your wishes were. You can read about the common mistakes people make writing wills here.

Do not forget that a will is a legal document so it is certainly worth spending a little extra to give you the peace of mind that all of your wishes will be fulfilled. If you choose to do it yourself and mistakes mean that it is invalid your estate could be passed into the hands of the government over your loved ones.

Writing your will: A checklist

A will

We’re experts on wills here at IMC so we’ve spoken frequently about them, from will terminology and common mistakes to whether or not you even need one. Our aim is to provide valuable information that encourages you to begin thinking about putting a will together for yourself. To help further, we’ve created this checklist so that you can check that every aspect of writing your will has been taken care of as you write it.

 

Step one: Value your estate

The first thing to do is calculate how much your estate is worth. Draw up a list of your assets including your home, savings, personal belongings, insurance policies and any liquid cash. You’ll also need to lay out all of your debts so remember to include those in the equation too. To obtain an accurate figure, it’s important that the valuation of your assets has been done recently because their worth can fluctuate over time.

 

Step two: Choose your beneficiaries

Once you know how much your estate is worth, decide who exactly will benefit from it upon your death. List who you want to receive assets from your estate, but also make it clear if there’s anybody you want to exclude from your will but who would usually be expected to benefit. This avoids complications after you’ve gone (they may dispute this, appeal and they may win). Failure to make exclusions is one of the most common mistakes in wills. You may also wish to leave money to a charity. If that’s the case, ensure you get all of the details about the charity correct, including name, address and registered charity number.

 

Step three: Choose your executor

Your executors deal with the actual distribution of your estate. Being an executor is an important role and can be stressful, so make sure that whoever you choose is trustworthy, up to the job and make them aware that you are naming them as executor. Keep an alternative executor listed, just in case your first choice can’t serve for whatever reason.

 

Step four: Write your will

If you know how much your estate is worth and who you want to leave items to, it’s time to start putting your will to paper. We’ve looked into the different options you have when writing the document in previous articles (how to write a will for free) but we always advise that you seek professional advice. Any information that’s incorrect or unclear may be disputed. Whichever you choose, it’s important that the document emphasises your wishes succinctly and clearly.

 

Step five: Get your witnesses

Once your will is finalised, you need two witnesses to observe you signing it. These witnesses can’t be beneficiaries and must be over 18. Choose people that you trust and aren’t in a position to coerce you to alter the will. A good option is your GP, who can also confirm that you were of sound mind if called on during a dispute (this is one potential grounds upon which wills are disputed and deemed invalid).

 

Step six: Sign your will

When everything is correct, you know who will be your executor and have two viable witnesses, all that’s left to do is sign the will. Remember, if you ever make changes to the document, you will have to re-sign in front of two new witnesses again.

 

Step seven: Store your will safely

Your will needs to be signed so you need to keep the original paper copy. Securely storing your will is just as important as any aspect of its creation as the original document will be required when your estate is processed. It’s absolutely essential that your original will is kept safely and away from any tampering, damage or loss. IMC offers secure storage in our will storage facility contact the IMC team for more information on this.

 

We have aimed to ensure that this checklist is as comprehensive as possible. Despite this we cannot guarantee that we will cover the necessities of writing a will for every situation, as such we encourage anyone with further questions to contact our wills and estate planning team for in-depth, personal advice.

 

For professional and independent advice on writing your will, as well as storage of the document, don’t hesitate to get in touch today.

For professional advice when it comes to creating your will, get in touch with IMC today. Our financial advisors will help you to understand the ins and outs of these often complex documents.

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