Making A Will Checklist: 10 Steps To A Watertight Will

sarah ryan
Sarah RyanAccount Manager @ Lawhive & Non-Practising Solicitor
Updated on 10th May 2024

Making a will is important to ensure your wishes are followed and your loved ones are taken care of when you die. To help you through what can be an overwhelming process, we've put together an easy checklist covering everything you need to think about and do when making a will.

making-a-will-checklist

From listing your belongings and who you want to inherit them to choosing guardians and executors, by following this guide you can easily create a will that reflects your wishes and protects your legacy.

Assess your assets

Before writing your will, list all your possessions, including property, cars, sentimental items, jewellery, artwork, stocks, shares, and bank accounts. Estimate the value of each to calculate the value of your estate.

Next, list debts like mortgages or loans, and subtract this total from your assets. This gives you your net worth, so you can make sure your will matches your financial situation.

Choose your executors

Executors handle your wishes and manage your estate when you die. It's a significant responsibility, so think carefully about who you choose.

Your chosen executors don't have to be professionals, but they should be people you trust to follow your wishes and manage your affairs responsibly. They should also be ready and willing to handle the potentially complex estate administration process.

Remember, you can appoint multiple executors to share the responsibility if you wish. You can also appoint backup executors who can step in should your original choice be unavailable or unable to when the time comes.

Choose your beneficiaries

Begin by listing everyone you wish to leave something to, whether it's family, friends, or charities. Include their full names and contact information to avoid confusion.

For each beneficiary, outline what you're leaving them, such as money, heirlooms, or property, and any special instructions. For instance, if a property is to be shared, explain how it should be divided.

You might also consider planning for situations where a primary beneficiary can't inherit by identifying secondary beneficiaries.

Outline guardianship arrangements for minor children

If you have children under 18, you should consider who would care for them if you were to unexpectedly pass away.

While there aren't strict rules for choosing guardians, you should select someone who can offer a stable and loving environment for your kids.

You may already have someone in mind for this responsibility. If so, have a conversation with them to be sure they're prepared for the role, and discuss practical matters like finances and education.

Once everyone agrees, you can outline the guardian's duties in your will, along with any financial support arrangements.

Consider specific bequests and instructions

When considering your will, don't forget about your personal and sentimental belongings. These items deserve attention too.

Be sure to specify each item or amount of money you want to give and who should receive it.

You can also include instructions on how items should be distributed, like sharing family photos. Additionally, you may want to set conditions on certain gifts to ensure they are used or kept in a particular way.

Don't forget your digital assets and accounts

Make a list of all your online accounts, including social media, banking, email, shopping, subscriptions, cloud storage, and digital investments, along with your login details.

For digital assets, you should say how each is to be managed when you die. This could involve transferring ownership or access to specific individuals, archiving or deleting personal information, or canceling subscription services.

Almost everyone in the world has a digital footprint nowadays, so you must be clear on how this should be managed and make sure your executor can access information and accounts.

Write a letter of wishes

There are some things you shouldn't include in your will but will want your loved ones to keep in mind when you die. A letter of wishes is a document that accompanies your will and provides further guidance to executors or beneficiaries on matters that are not legally binding but important to you.

In your letter of wishes, you can express your personal thoughts, preferences, and wishes on:

  • Funeral arrangements

  • The distribution of your personal belongings not addressed in your will

  • Your parenting philosophy, values, and any specific wishes for the upbringing of your children.

You may also use the letter to send personal messages, expressions of love, or even apologies to your loved ones.

Think about Inheritance Tax

You know what they say, nothing is certain in life except death and taxes!

While Inheritance Tax is calculated and settled after you die, there are ways and means to potentially reduce your Inheritance Tax liability, such as making gifts in your lifetime or setting up a trust to manage and distribute your assets.

If you would like to explore this route, it's a good idea to take some advice from a qualified wills, trust, and probate lawyer, or a financial advisor to identify the best strategies.

Tell someone where your will is

You should store your will somewhere safe but accessible. Then, you should tell your appointed executor(s) where it is and how to access it.

Your executors won't be able to apply for Grant of Probate without your will, which could delay probate, so someone should be aware of where your will is stored and how to answer it.

What's more, if your will can't be located, your assets will be distributed as if you died without a will, according to the rules of intestacy, which may not align with your wishes.

Review and update your will regularly

Life is dynamic and there will likely be changes to your circumstances, relationships, and assets that will impact the effectiveness of your will over time. Therefore, be sure to revisit it periodically and update it following significant life events like marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, financial changes, or the death of a named beneficiary or executor.

For minor changes, you can add a codicil to your will. However, it's recommended to make a new will in the wake of significant events to ensure clarity and reduce the risk of legal challenges.

Make your will with Lawhive

By following the steps in this guide—from gathering personal info to choosing executors and specifying guardianships—you can make a comprehensive will.

However, if you need support in creating or updating your will, our network of expert solicitors is on hand to help quickly, for affordable, transparent fixed fees.

Request a callback from our Legal Assessment Specialists for a free quote for the services of a specialist lawyer.

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