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Your Guide to Making a Will

Creating a will can be a relatively straightforward process, but many families do not have anything written down, leaving them vulnerable. Understand how to go about making a will, with our simple guide.

Your Guide to Making a Will

Creating a will can be a relatively straightforward process, but many families do not have anything written down, leaving them vulnerable. Understand how to go about making a will, with our simple guide.

Everyone needs a will but it’s something that very few of us put in place. Our research found that just one in six (15%) of us have written a will, leaving many families vulnerable if the worst happens.  

Die without a will and it could leave your loved ones facing stress, heartache and financial hardship as they try to work out how you would have liked to distribute your belongings.

As emotions are already raw, it can quickly lead to arguments, family fallouts and even legal action.

Even where things seem straightforward, there’s no guarantee your estate will be passed on in line with your wishes. Under the government’s rules of intestacy, only spouses, civil partners and close relatives can inherit: an unmarried partner would receive nothing.

And this is certainly not just an issue for those in or approaching retirement. 69% of those aged 45-54 haven’t made a will yet, leaving a large proportion of those with young families, mortgages and other assets at risk.

Your guide to creating a will

As well as ensuring your final wishes are carried out, it’s easy to put a valid will in place.

These are our tips to getting that important final paperwork in order: 

Think about your estate

Estate is a legal term that simply means everything you own minus any debts. It can include your home, savings and investments, car, jewellery and any other possessions. Knowing exactly what you’ve got makes it easier to consider whom you would like to leave it to.  

Consider your beneficiaries

Your beneficiaries are the people who will receive any inheritance from you when you die. They can be family, friends or your favourite charities and you can have as many, or as few, as you like. If you have children under 18 years of age, your will should also include details of who will look after them if you’re not around.  

Appoint an executor

This is the person, or persons, who is responsible for carrying out your wishes. It could be a family member, a friend or a solicitor. It’s an important role so make sure they’re happy taking it on. 

DIY or professional advice?

For most straightforward wills, a simple will writing tool, like the will writing tool that comes as part of MetLife’s Group Life cover, provides a simple and easy way to create and store wills and estate documents.

For those with more complex needs, such as those with children from another marriage, or properties overseas, solicitors and professional will writing services can help to provide the appropriate level of support required.  

Typically, more complex wills would include, if you are domiciled outside the UK, have assets in the UK and in an EU member state and you have dual nationality, or have circumstances that call for more complex trust structures and/or tax planning (e.g. you wish to create a disabled person’s trust, or other form of discretionary trust). 

If you’re looking to seek advice and guidance, you may also want to take advantage of a charity will writing event such as Free Wills Month in March and October or Will Aid in November. 

Ensure your will is legal

For your will to be legal, you must be aged 18 plus, of sound mind and not being pressured to get it written. It also needs to be signed by you and witnessed by two people. These must be over 18 and independent: they and their spouses cannot benefit from your will.  

Keep your will safe 

According to our research, only 14% of people had shared or told family members where they could find important documents like wills, financial information or policy documents.

In a world that’s increasingly online, such information is lost behind log-in screens with passwords now long-forgotten. Getting access can be frustrating and drawn-out, with third parties sharing access only when probate has been granted.

That's why it’s vital that your will is stored somewhere safe, and is easy to find when it’s needed. Many people leave it with their solicitor, bank or a will writing service but you could also take advantage of a secure cloud-based data vault.

For example, MetLife offers access to the Tenzing app as part of a Group Life policy. This provides secure storage for your will and lets you give access to your executor and other key people.

 Four reasons for making a will.

Having a will in place is a great way to look after your loved ones when you’re no longer around. It’s also important to regularly review it to ensure it reflects any changes in your situation.

As a rough guide, review it every five years or following any major change such as getting divorced, having a child or your executor dying. Getting married will automatically cancel any will you had in place.  

 It’s easy to make changes. Minor changes, which are officially known as a codicil, must be witnessed when they’re added to an existing will. If you want to make major changes, consider writing a new will.

Planning your legacy

Having earlier conversations – and planning – has a big impact on those left behind.

In The Last Word, our latest research into death and funeral planning, learn about the impact on families, and the risks they’re exposed to, due to missing conversations and a lack of planning.

Read The Last Word