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Tips for writing and updating a Will

Writing a Will important, however updating a Will if things change is also essential.

September 26, 2023

Elderly couple reviewing will

Recent research indicates that as many as half of UK adults don’t have a valid Will in place, and in 2020, that included 39% of 65-74 year olds. While writing a Will is something that many people probably think they’ll just leave until later life, it seems that even as they get older, lots of people still don’t get around to it.

In this article, we look at why having a Will is important for planning ahead, and why updating a Will that’s already in place might also be a good idea, along with how to do it.

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Why is having a Will important?

If there is not a Will in place when you pass away, it means that specific and strict rules apply to your estate which have to be followed. A result of this can be that money and possessions may not end up going where you might have intended them to.

Even if you don’t think that you have anything of great value to pass on to family or other loved ones, not having a Will can mean that the process of dividing your estate will be determined by intestacy rules, which can cause delays and stress for loved ones.

It could also mean that people you no longer have contact or a relationship with may actually inherit from your estate, while other people that are important to you, might not.

For example, if a couple has been living together for many years but are not married or civil partners, the partner of the deceased may have no rights to any assets if there is no Will in place.

If you have no spouse, civil partner or family members who would inherit under intestacy rules, your estate will pass to the Crown if you don’t have a Will. Many people would prefer what they do have in their estate to go to a person or cause that they care about.


What should go into a Will?

Often included in a Will are:

  • Details of how your assets will be transferred when you pass away
  • Named beneficiaries and what you want them to receive (and when)
  • The name of at least one executor of your estate
  • The name of an appointed guardian, if you have children under the age of 18 with no surviving parent
  • Any strong preferences for funeral arrangements


Elderly couple at home

It’s important to determine what your estate actually includes, so that you can decide what happens to specific things after your death. The kinds of things included in estates could be:

  • Any property that you own, whether in the UK or abroad and all of the furniture/contents
  • Any savings or investments that you have
  • Any relevant insurance products you have, such as life insurance, life assurance or an endowment policy
  • Pension funds (some of these include a lump sum that is paid out upon death)
  • Valuable personal belongings, such as jewellery, antiques or sentimental items.

Any debts that you have when you pass away will be settled by your estate before any beneficiaries receive anything. These debts could include anything from a mortgage on your home to credit card balances, a bank overdraft, car finance or any personal loans.


Will writing tips

It’s important to get qualified advice when writing a Will, usually from a registered solicitor. Wills can be complex documents and it’s easy to make mistakes or leave important things out, which is why it’s generally not recommended to write your own Will without getting expert professional advice first.

For a Will to be valid:

  • It needs to be signed by you and witnessed by two other people (all present at the same time) who are not beneficiaries
  • You must be judged to have the mental capacity to make your Will and understand the consequences of the decisions that you have made in it
  • You must be judged to have made the Will voluntarily, without anyone pressuring you into any of the decisions in it.

Your solicitor can help you with this, but it’s important for the Will to make clear what your intentions are for all parts of your estate as this can help avoid any potential disputes down the line.


Elderly man reviewing will 

Changing a Will you already have

Things change over time and many people find that a Will they perhaps had drawn up many years ago is not up to date with all the details they want now.

It’s recommended to review a Will every five years, or after any major change in life.

These changes could include things like the birth of a new grandchild, moving home, getting married, remarried or divorced, or the death of a named executor or a named beneficiary.

Updating a Will needs to be done in a certain way to make sure it is legal and valid. You can add what is known as a codicil to the original Will document if you only want to make minor changes. This codicil is an amendment that also needs to be witnessed by two people and will be stored with your existing Will.

If you want to make major changes to an existing Will, it’s recommended that you make a new Will and cancel the old version. Once the new Will has been drawn up, you can arrange for the original Will to be destroyed so that there is no confusion over which version is valid.


Peace of mind in later life

When it comes to Wills, estate planning and making financial decisions about the future, knowing that these things are now sorted out can bring real peace of mind to both you and your loved ones in later years. Whether it’s deciding on your future care plans with family members, organising your finances or making sure that you’re claiming everything you’re entitled to once retired, making sure that your wishes and preferences are known is important.

Another way in which many older people and their loved ones can gain peace of mind is with a personal alarm system. A personal alarm is designed to be worn at all times so that if the older person has a fall or another kind of accident or emergency, they can raise an alert immediately by pressing the emergency button on their personal panic alarm. With a TakingCare alarm system, the alert will be answered 24/7 by our emergency resolution team, who can speak to the wearer and arrange further help if needed.

Advice on choosing a personal alarm

It’s important to choose a personal alarm that includes all the features that suit how you live your life and your circumstances, such as automatic fall detection, built-in GPS or a waterproof device that can be worn in the bath or shower. Our team can help make sure you choose the right product for your situation. Call us on 0800 085 7371, Monday - Friday 9am - 6pm.

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