General questions about Wills

What is a Will?

A Will is a legally binding document that clearly sets out how you want your estate – your property, money and possessions – to be distributed when you die. If you have minor children, it also nominates a guardian (or guardians) who will care for them after your death.

Do I need a Will?

A Will is the only way you can decide what happens to everything you own after you die. Without one, your money, property and possessions will be handed over to the state when you die and they will decide how they are distributed.

What happens if I die without a Will?

If you die without a Will (also known as ‘dying intestate’), your assets are divided up according to intestacy rules. This means that the government decides how your estate is distributed, rather than you. It also makes things a lot more difficult and costly for the people you leave behind, as they have to deal with your estate without knowing your final wishes.

How long does it take to make a Will?

It could take you as little as 15 minutes if your circumstances are very simple – i.e. if you have no children and you wish to leave all of your estate to your partner. If you have more beneficiaries (children, other family members, friends etc.) and a number of gifts to include, it will take longer.

Where should I store my Will?

It’s very important that your Will can be found after your death. Store the original of your Will in a safe place, and tell those close to you where it is stored. It is also a good idea to let your executors know where your Will is stored.

If the Will can’t be located after your death, then you are essentially dying without a Will.

How do I provide for my pets in a Will?

Stories of cats being left entire fortunes are pure fiction. Under the law, a pet is considered to be personal property. As such, they can’t be a beneficiary of any gifts or a share of your estate.

However, you can provide for your pets in your Will by allocating a carer. They can be an individual you trust to look after your pet when you’re gone, or an organisation such as an animal charity.

Typically, you would provide a cash gift or share of your estate to the carer so they can provide ongoing care to the pet for the rest of its life. Animal charities that provide pet legacy programmes normally use the gift to help with finding a new home for your pet.

If you have someone in mind to care for your pet, we recommend speaking to them first before including them in your Will. This will avoid any surprises and give you peace of mind that your pet will be cared for as you wish.

What's the difference between a solicitor and a Will writer?

Solicitors tend to cost more than professional Will writers, so if money is a concern for you, the latter may be a better option.

However, if you have a more complex estate or would like the added security that comes with using an accredited solicitor, we’d suggest that this is the better choice for you. It only takes one mistake for a Will to be deemed invalid, so getting it right the first time is very important.

For more detailed information, read our guide on the differences between solicitors and Will writers

When should I use a solicitor to arrange my Will?

We recommend using a solicitor to make your Will in the following situations:

  • You want to hand over control of a business
  • You don’t live in the UK or you have property overseas
  • You own a property with someone who is not your partner
  • You want to set up care for a dependent
What are the differences in making a Will in Scotland?

There are a number of differences in making a Will in Scotland, compared to the rest of the UK, because of the different legal system. To find out more, read our guide on the differences in making a Will in Scotland.

Are my debts written off after I die?

It’s often assumed that any debts you have become void after you die. This isn’t the case. Your debts will need to be paid from your estate before any inheritance can be passed on to friends, family and benefactors.