What is a Will (or ‘Last Will and Testament’)?

A will is a legal document that lets you decide what happens to your possessions, money and property after you die. The price of a will can be upwards of around £100. Your funeral preferences may also be included in this document. It is recommended that you amend your will after any major life events, such as birth of a child, marriage or divorce.

What should be included?

Your will should include these points (if applicable):

• Who is going to carry out your wishes after your death – an executor

• Who should benefit from your will

• Who should look after any children under 18

• Details of any houses/ properties you own or joint-own

• Individual and joint bank/ building society accounts

• Jewellery or personal items and who you would like to have them

• Names of beneficiaries, such as a spouse or children

• Details of appointed guardians for care of children or pets

• Details of any gifts or legacies you would like to make

It is advisable to seek advice from a legal professional if your circumstances are complicated or if you have a lot of assets. Simple wills can take as little as 20 minutes to draft with a solicitor, making planning for the future more accessible.

Note: The contents of wills are published; therefore it may not be safe to leave personal passwords in the body of the text.

Making sure it’s legal

For your will to be legally valid, you must:

• Be 18 or over

• Be of sound mind

• Make it voluntarily

• Write it down

• Sign in front of two witnesses over 18

• Have your witnesses sign it in your presence

• Leave your witnesses or their partners anything in your will

Keeping your will safe

Once you have written your will, make sure you keep it in a safe place, such as in your home, with a solicitor or in a bank. It is important that you tell a trusted loved one or your executor where it is placed.

What will happen if you die without a will?

If you die without a will, the law determines who will inherit your estate and any money or possessions you left behind. This could mean that someone you had not intended to inherit anything may be a beneficiary. Alternatively, a person you had wanted to have your belongings after death may receive nothing. It is particularly important to make a will if children or vulnerable adults are involved. If families are left to decide without knowing wishes, it could lead to disputes.

Creating a Lasting Power of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows you to appoint one person or more (who are called attorneys) to help you make or make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able.

There are two types of document that deal with different aspects of your life:

• Property and financial affairs – this includes making decisions involving selling a house and managing accounts

• Health and Welfare – this involves making decisions about medical care and treatment

Registering the document

To complete the process, you need to register your Lasting Power of Attorney with the Office of the Public Guardian at a cost of £110. Some reductions and exemptions do apply.

Why create a Lasting Power of Attorney?

By choosing an attorney to act on your behalf, you can have peace of mind that when the time comes, your wishes will be followed as closely as possible.

For more information about writing a will or creating a power of attorney visit gov.uk/power-of-attorney and gov.uk/make-will.

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