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Making a will: how to write one and why you need to

8 mins read
by Nick Green
Last updated Friday, May 24, 2024

Making a will is vital to ensure your wishes are honoured when you pass away. We reveal everything you need to know.

If you’re wondering, ‘Do I need a will?’ and how to start the process of making a will, this article will share what you must know. 

First, if you’re curious about the best time to write your will, the answer is as soon as possible. 

Having an up-to-date will is important at any time of your life, but especially if you have people who depend on you, such as a partner or children. 

Here’s why you need a will and how you can write one. 

Learn more: what are the best online will writing services in the UK?


  • A will helps you distribute your assets in line with your wishes when you pass away.

  • However, there’s a lot to consider before writing a will. 

  • You’ll also need to ensure any will you create is valid, which is where a solicitor can help. 

  • Unbiased can connect you to a qualified financial adviser who can help with estate planning. 

Why do I need a will?

If you die without a will, which is known as ‘dying intestate’, then UK law determines who inherits your assets.

This may not be as you would have wished, and it will certainly take much longer for your beneficiaries to inherit anything.

With a will, you can dictate exactly who gets what. Your wishes can be as simple or as detailed as you like, provided that your solicitor ensures they are legally binding.

You can make sure your family is taken care of, leave assets or specific items to family and friends, make contributions to charity and ensure your overall legacy.

Most importantly, you can specify who will care for any dependent children you leave behind.

Why do I need to update my will?

Your will may well need to change with your circumstances.

If you get married, this invalidates any previous will you may have made, so you will need to make a new one.

Similarly, if you have children, you may need to write them into a new will to prevent future disputes.

If you have children from previous marriages or relationships, an up-to-date will is essential if you want to avoid messy conflicts between your different families.

Do I need a solicitor to make a will? 

You don’t need a solicitor to make or witness a will for you. While you can make a will yourself, this is a suitable option only if you have simple circumstances.  

It’s recommended you use a solicitor to write a will to ensure there are no mistakes, which could cause issues after your death and be costly to fix, as well as impact the amount of inheritance left for your loved ones. 

While a solicitor costs money, you should be provided with an outline of the fees before you choose to use one. 

Common mistakes a solicitor can help you avoid include not making the will legally valid, not considering all assets or that a beneficiary may die before the person making the will. 

You may also invalidate a will if you make changes that aren’t witnessed and signed or be unaware of how a change in circumstances can affect your will. 

A solicitor can help you ensure you don’t unintentionally invalidate your will. 

There are some scenarios where using a solicitor is particularly advisable, including if: 

  • Many family members may make a make a claim on your will.

  • You share a home with someone you’re not married to or in a civil partnership with.

  • You want to provide for a dependant who cannot care for themselves.

  • You have a business.

  • You are a UK resident but have a property abroad.

  • Your permanent home is not in the UK.

How do I find a solicitor? 

While you can independently search for a solicitor, you can also use the Law Society’s ‘Find a Solicitor’ tool and choose ‘Wills, trusts and probates’ to find your nearest one. 

You can check if a solicitor is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority with this tool. 

How do I make a will?

While DIY will-writing kits are available, mistakes can be easy to make and costly to fix. 

A solicitor can help you make a legally binding simple will for between £100 and £200, but wills can cost up to £2,000.  

A will could cost more if you are divorced and have children or need to cover trusts or overseas properties.  

If you're aged 55 or over, you may benefit from 'Free Wills Month' in March and October every year, where you can make or update a simple will free of charge. 

While you can leave a gift for charity, there is no obligation to.  

You will need to appoint at least one executor to oversee the distribution of your estate and liaise with any professionals or organisations on behalf of your beneficiaries. 

You should appoint at least two people to do this. They don’t need experience but choose people who are confident in dealing with official matters. 

You will also need at least two witnesses to read and sign your will, and these should not be beneficiaries. 

Are there any more benefits to having a will?

Sometimes, your will can help to reduce the inheritance tax (IHT) your beneficiaries may have to pay. 

If you think your estate may be over the IHT threshold, talk to a financial adviser before drafting your will. 

There are many ways to legally reduce or even eliminate an IHT bill through advance planning and other means, such as making gifts to charities in your will.

What to include in a will 

There’s a lot to include in your will, so make sure you consider: 

  • Your assets: Look at what assets you have, including any savings, property, pensions, insurance policies, investments and bank accounts.

  • Your beneficiaries: You should have a good idea of who you want to leave your assets to and if you want to make any charity donations.

  • Your executors: You’ll need to appoint at least one executor to carry out your wishes and sort out your estate when you die.

  • Your children: Consider who you would like to take care of your children under 18.

How do I make sure my will is valid? 

There are many conditions that need to be met to ensure a will is legally valid. 

This includes making sure the will is made: 

  • By someone at least 18 years old.

  • Without any pressure from another individual.

  • In writing. 

  • By an individual who is of sound mind, so they must understand the will and who will inherit their assets. 

The will must be signed by the person writing it in front of two witnesses, who must also sign – and they cannot be beneficiaries of the will in question. 

So, if a witness is a beneficiary or married to a beneficiary, they will not be able to inherit anything even though the will is valid. 

A will is valid without the date of signing, but it’s recommended that this is included. 

It’s vital to make sure a will is legally valid – if it’s not, your assets won’t be distributed according to your wishes. 

If you’re service personnel on active service, you may face less strict requirements when writing your will, but it’s worth seeking advice beforehand. 

How to change a will 

If your circumstances have changed, for example, you’ve had a child or remarried, you can change your will by making as many codicils as you want or creating a new one. 

With a codicil, you add a supplement to the will, so you make a few changes but leave the rest of the will unchanged. 

For example, you might want to change an executor or add a beneficiary. 

If you make a codicil, you must sign the will in front of two witnesses, who can differ from those at the original signing. 

However, if you have any complex changes, you should create a new will, which will involve all previous wills and codicils being made void and destroyed.

Where should I keep my will?

You should keep your will safe at home, with your solicitor, at a will storage company or with your bank

Make sure the relevant people know where it is, as you won’t be around to tell them.

Joint wills and mirror wills

A joint will is one made by two people (usually married) that cannot be changed without both of them agreeing.

This means that after one party's death, the other person cannot change the will without taking costly legal action.

You can make mirror wills, where each spouse writes their own individual will that exactly matches their partner's.

Each spouse can also change their own will if it becomes necessary to do so. Contact a solicitor to find out more about mirror wills.

What about trusts? Should I consider setting one up?

Another way to ensure your wishes are carried out is by setting up a trust.

This allows you to set aside money to support a beneficiary in a specific way or at a certain time such as to pay for your own care, to support someone who can’t manage their own money, or to pay university fees.

You’ll need to name a trustee who will be responsible for ensuring the trust is used for its intended purpose.

There are different types of trusts, and each has different tax implications, so it’s important to explore your options with a financial adviser.

Once you’ve decided on a trust, you’ll also need the help of a solicitor to ensure it is legally sound.

Need financial advice?

Unbiased can quickly connect you with a qualified financial adviser regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

If you found this article useful, you might also find our articles on estate planning and wills for blended families and on deed of variation informative, too. 

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Nick Green
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.