Only two-thirds of adults plan to leave the same amount of children in wills

Lime Solicitors associate Alistair Spencer offers the following to-do list.

1. Determine what assets you own

The value of your assets and how those assets are held—for example, in real estate, stocks, and so on—determine whether your estate may be taxed upon your death.

It is worth preparing a statement of your assets and liabilities with at least estimated values ​​before attending a meeting with a legal professional to draft a will.

The lawyer will examine which tax relief is possible and what the most suitable and tax-advantaged way is to structure your will.

2. Determine who benefits from your will

A legal professional will help you make a will

Many wills are disputed because family members are shocked and angry at the contents when a loved one has passed away.

This can lead to costly litigation and the will writer’s decisions will be scrutinized and possibly changed.

That is why it is important that after you have written your will, you share its contents with your family and friends to ensure there are no surprises.

If the contents of the will could be considered potentially controversial, it is often advisable to prepare a wish letter to be kept with the will, outlining why you made the decisions in your will and why certain people can be excluded.

3. Choose your performer

Ideally, you should appoint more than one person to act as your executor as this minimizes the risk of both executors dying before you.

You can also choose one or more deputy executors if the executors you named are unwilling or unable to act.

Executors are the people who carry out the terms of your will and manage your estate when you die.

They must be individuals you implicitly trust, must be over 18 years of age at the time of your death, and must be mentally capable of doing the job.

If you appoint more than one executor, make sure that the executors can work together as best as possible.

It may be wise to appoint at least one professional executor, although there are costs involved. An executor can also be a beneficiary of your will.

4. Find two witnesses

Each witness must be independent, so they cannot be a beneficiary of the will or a spouse or civil partner of a beneficiary.

Any gift you make to the witness or to their spouse or registered partner will fail.

If you make your will through lawyers, they will usually provide the independent witnesses.

You must have at least two witnesses and they must both see you sign or acknowledge the will in their presence before signing the will themselves.

5. Keep your will up to date

In my experience, many people often forget to update their will after a major life event and run the risk of the document not describing what they want it to do.

This does not mean that you have to make a new will, as the changes are often quite simple.

Once you’re married, any wills made before your wedding day are automatically revoked – so if you get a divorce from your spouse, changes must be made to reflect the change in your circumstances.

It’s not uncommon to come across situations where a person has died after a divorce but hasn’t updated their will, leaving their former partner still benefiting from his estate.