Alistair Spencer, associate at Lyme Solicitors, offers the following to-do list.
1. Calculate what assets you have
The value of your assets and how those assets are held, such as property, shares and so on, determines whether your estate tax can be charged on your death.
Before attending a meeting with a legal professional to make a will it is worth combining a schedule of your assets and liabilities with minimum estimated values.
Legal professionals will consider what tax relief may be available and the most appropriate and tax-effective way of creating your will.
2. Decide who will benefit from your will
Legal professionals can help guide you through the process of making a will
Many wills are disputed because family members are shocked and angry by things after a loved one dies.
This can lead to costly disputes and the decisions of the will writers are reviewed and potentially changed.
This is why, once you have written your will, it is important to communicate its contents with your family and friends to ensure there are no surprises in line.
If the contents of the will can be seen as potentially controversial, it is usually advised to keep a letter of consent with you that sets out why you have made the decisions you have in your will and may exclude certain people.
3. Select your Executor
Ideally you should name more than one person to act as your executive, as this will reduce the risk that both managers will die before you.
You can choose one or more replacement managers if the named executives are unwilling or unable to function.
Executors are the individuals who handle the terms of your will and divide your estate when you die.
They must be people you trust implicitly, over 18 years of age at the time of your death, and mentally competent to do the job.
If more than one executor is named, make sure that you are able to work together.
It is sensible to hire at least one professional manager, though there are associated costs. An administrator can also be the beneficiary of your will.
4. Find two witnesses
Any witness must be independent, so he cannot be the beneficiary or beneficiary spouse or civil partner of the will.
Any gift you give to a witness or their spouse or civil partner will fail.
If you do your will through a legal professional, they usually provide independent evidence.
You must have at least two witnesses and both must see you signing or approve the will in their presence before signing the will.
5. Update your will
In my experience, many people forget to renew their will after a significant life event and risk not documenting what they want to do.
This does not mean that you have to make a new will, often the changes are quite simple.
Once you get married, any will made before your wedding day is automatically withdrawn – so if you are separated from your spouse, changes must be made to reflect the change in your circumstances.
It is not uncommon for a person who dies after a divorce but fails to renew their will, as a result of which their former partners are still benefiting from their property.