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Making a Will – Your complete checklist

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First4Lawyers. Updated, October 08, 2019

When it comes to making a Will, a checklist can be essential to helping you organise the process and set out what you need to do.

We’ve created this guide to help you narrow down what you need to think about when making your Will.

Your estate

Your estate will likely be the first thing you consider when thinking about your Will. After all, the point of most Wills is to set out who will receive what from an estate. You may choose to have certain possessions valued – such as jewellery and vehicles. This will help you work out the total value of your estate and may aid you in deciding who you will leave which items to.

Debts are another important aspect to think about when considering your estate. Make a list of all outstanding debts, including mortgages, car finance, loans and credit cards. Your estate will likely be liable for your debts so it’s important to set out exactly what needs to be paid off.

Executor

Your chosen executor will be the one responsible for paying that debt off upon your death. This doesn’t mean that they’ll be held personally liable for the debt, but they will have to take on the responsibility of paying the debts from your estate.

It is therefore vital to think carefully about who you want to appoint as your executor. It is also important to ensure your preferred executor will accept the duties that come with the role. Many people choose a partner or close relative, but it should be someone you trust. It is also a good idea to choose at least two executors in case one of them dies before you or before they are able to take on the role.

Funeral

Do you have any special wishes for your funeral? If so, set them out in your Will so your executor and surviving family members know what you wanted. You can also set out what you want to happen to your body when you die.

You can make your wishes as detailed as you want, meaning you can include details on where you’d like to be buried or if you’d prefer your ashes scattered, buried or kept with someone. You can list the music you’d like played at your funeral, where it should be held and how much money you’d like spent on it. Equally, you can set out that you’d like a simple send off if that’s what you prefer.

Witnesses

In order for a Will to be legally binding, it must be signed by two people over the age of 18. Ideally, you should choose two people who aren’t related to you and have no interest in your estate or the Will you are making. Some people call on neighbours or family friends to witness their Wills.

Unlike your executor, your witnesses are not allowed to be beneficiaries of your Will. The spouse or civil partner of a beneficiary named in your Will is also not allowed to witness it. However, your chosen executor may witness your Will – as long as they have not been named as a beneficiary in it.

Beneficiaries

There are several factors to consider when listing your beneficiaries. For example, if you want to leave something to each of your grandchildren, you may need to allow for the fact that they haven’t all been born yet. You will also have to think about what to do with the remainder of your estate after naming all of your beneficiaries, as well as how you want your estate split if a beneficiary dies before you.

Be aware that in choosing to disinherit someone from your Will, you may unwittingly cause a conflict. Your Will may end up being disputed if someone thinks they should have received something from your estate but didn’t.

Power of attorney

When putting together your Will and deciding what you want to happen to your estate when you pass away, you may also want to think about a lasting power of attorney. This will allow you to appoint someone to make decisions for you if you lose the mental capacity to do so yourself, perhaps through illness or serious injury.

It will allow the person you have chosen to decide what happens to your estate and any business interests you have. For this reason, you should choose someone you trust and who is open to the responsibility.

Letter of wishes

If you have any other wishes for your estate or if you want to explain the decisions you’ve made, you can write a letter of wishes, which can be stored alongside your Will. There is no set template for such a letter, so you are free to include whatever information you decide relevant.

You can use this letter to issue your final communications to your family and friends. You may choose to detail why you have excluded someone from your Will or you may simply want to say a final goodbye to your loved ones.

If you have any questions about what to include in your Will and how to go about creating it, just get in touch with First4Lawyers.