Most of us will need to know how to write a will at some point. Here’s how to avoid the most common mistakes when writing your will
Plan For The Future
As most people get older, planning for the future becomes a bigger priority. This not only means looking after your loved ones now, but also putting plans in place to make sure their needs will always be met, no matter what unexpected turns life might take.
Writing a comprehensive will is one of the most important steps you can take to provide this peace of mind. This will allow you to ensure that your family will be financially supported even after you are gone. It ensures that all of your affairs are taken care of. However, this is also why it is vitally important to avoid making a mistake when writing your will. It can create significant administrative complications for all affected. It can also mean that your loved ones do not receive the protection they deserve.
How to Write a Will
For those who are inexperienced in writing a will, the process can seem complicated and daunting. This is why the legal experts at Clough & Willis have put together some simple advice on how to avoid the most common mistakes people make when writing a will.
Missing out assets or beneficiaries when writing your will
The most important aspect of writing a comprehensive will is making sure that you’ve included all of the belongings and possessions that you wish to pass on, as well as all of the individuals who you want to receive them.
When writing a will, most people will instantly remember to include the most obvious assets, such as their money, property and expensive family heirlooms. But have you remembered to pass on intangible assets such as bank accounts, stocks and shares, or business interests? What about leaving instructions on what should happen to your digital media accounts, or items of sentimental value?
Similarly, when listing out all of the beneficiaries, it’s essential to be exhaustive, especially if you have a non-traditional family structure. For example, you must make specific provisions for stepchildren or family members from previous relationships, as they will not be automatically included unless you say so. If you have estranged relatives that you wish to specifically exclude, you must also specify this, or else you risk them being able make a claim and create conflict after you are gone.
Describing your assets too specifically
Although it’s generally advisable to be exact when writing a will, there are circumstances where being too specific when describing your assets can cause problems.
For example, if you are looking to pass on a house or car in your will, it can be an issue if you describe that particular asset in individual detail, only to replace it with another before you die. If the will has not then been updated to reflect this change, it can create ambiguity about whether your instructions apply to the new asset in the same way.
As such, it may be better to use more general language in instances like this, such as “the house or vehicle that is currently registered in my name”.
Choosing the wrong witnesses or executors
For a will to be legally binding, it must be signed in the physical presence of two valid witnesses. They must both be UK citizens over the age of 18, and must neither be named as beneficiaries in the will nor married to someone who is.
Choose the wrong witness for your will and you risk invalidating the whole document. This can accidentally disinherit a loved one who was inappropriately used as a witness. This is why it is so crucial to choose your witnesses correctly.
Equally vital is to select an appropriate executor. This is who will take responsibility for carrying out the instructions left behind in your will after you are gone. This can be anyone over the age of 18. But you must make sure to select someone who will be willing and capable of doing it. In some cases, it may be best to choose multiple executors. This will help ensure that the responsibility does not all fall on a single person.
Failing to update your will correctly
Writing a will should not be seen as a one-off task to be done and then forgotten about. Your will needs to be updated regularly as your life circumstances change.
Most notably, if you get married or enter a new civil partnership, your existing will becomes invalid automatically. It will need to be rewritten in these circumstances. However, there may be other events that require a change to your will. An example is the birth or death of a family member, the purchase of another property, or a divorce.
As a rule, it is a good idea to consider backup plans even when writing the initial will, in case plans need to change. For example, what will happen if any of your beneficiaries do not outlive you? Who will receive their inheritance, and how can you arrange for this in a way that avoids potential future legal disputes?
It is also vital to ensure that any changes to the will are handled through the proper legal channels. You cannot simply add to or change the text of your will. These new additions will not be seen as legally valid unless they have been signed and witnessed in the same way as the will itself. There is no limit to the number of these official updates, called codicils. But sometimes it may be easier to simply replace the will if major changes are needed.
Failing to let people know where to find the original copy of your will
To carry out your instructions, your executors and solicitors must have access to the original will after you die. A photocopy will not be enough. You will therefore need to let the relevant people know where the original version of the will is being kept.
Many people choose to keep their original will document in a safe place at home. Others will hand it over to their bank or solicitor for safekeeping. If you choose the latter option, it can be a good idea to copy of it for your records. This is so you can consult the text whenever you need to while the original remains safely stored away.
Making a DIY will
As these common errors suggest, writing a will can be a complicated process. The potential legal consequences of getting it wrong can be significant. This is why it is generally inadvisable to try and write one yourself, without consulting a trained solicitor.
Stressful legal disputes can result from even a small omission or lack of clarity in the phrasing of your will. Worse still, it can render the entire document invalid. By seeking professional guidance, you can make sure that these common mistakes are safely avoided.
How to Write a Will by Clough & Willis
For further guidance on how to write a will, Clough & Willis has designed a simple and easy-to-follow wills checklist. It can be downloaded and printed out here. Follow this straightforward guide and tick off each step one by one. This can help you avoid any troublesome mistakes. It’ll make sure that your will is comprehensive, giving you and your family the peace of mind you are seeking.