How to write a will

It is important to make a will because it is the only way to ensure that your estate (your property, money, investments and possessions) go to the people or causes that you choose. If you are married or in a civil partnership your partner will have a right to inherit. But if you are not, they will have no rights without a will.

Value your estate

Drawing up a list of what you own (and any debts) will give you an idea of what your estate will be worth. An estate usually includes:

  • your home and any other property that you own
  • money and savings in bank and building society accounts as well as National Savings (like premium bonds)
  • life insurance policies
  • pension funds that include a lump sum paid out on your death
  • investments (e.g. stocks and shares, ISAs)
  • cars or other vehicles
  • jewellery, antiques and personal belongings
  • furniture and household contents

Do include any debts such as mortgages, credit cards, overdrafts, loans or equity release.

Decide what should happen to your estate


  • your beneficiaries (people who benefit from your will). These could be family, friends or a favourite charity. If you wish to leave money to a charity, do ensure that you include its full name, address and registered number.
  • whether you want to give gifts – money or special possessions – to one or more beneficiaries.
  • where the residue of your estate goes – this is anything that is left after paying funeral and administrative expenses, legacies and any taxes.
  • what should happen if any beneficiaries die before you do.

Choose your executors

Executors help ensure that your estate is distributed according to your will. It is a responsible job and can involve a lot of work, so think carefully about who you choose to do this.

Writing your will

There are several ways to write a will, and different people can help you:


(Or a solicitor or chartered legal executive) – some solicitors specialise in will writing and probate, the legal process involved in dealing with someone’s estate.

Professional will writers

Check that whoever you use is a member of the Institute of Professional Will Writers.


Some offer a free will-drafting service. If you want to leave money to a charity, check with them to see whether they can help you write your will.


Some offer will-writing services and advice about estate planning.


Make your own will

There are some online services which allow you to download a template. If you choose to do this, be aware that a valid will must be written, signed and witnessed correctly, by people other than your beneficiaries (who could lose their right to inherit). So it is better to seek advice before you go down this route.

Making a will if you are unable to sign it yourself

If you are unable to sign your will yourself, someone can do it on your behalf. But you must be in the room and able to direct them to sign it for you. You must also have the mental capacity to make the will, otherwise it is not legal. That is why it is a good idea to make a will as soon as possible, if you do not already have one.

For more information about wills head to the government’s website, and Age UK.

Inheritance Tax

Inheritance Tax is a fact of life. Your heirs could face a tax bill of up to 40% of the value of your estate after any debts and funeral expenses have been deducted.

Everyone has a tax-free inheritance allowance of £325,000 (known as the nil-rate band). This has stayed the same since 2010-11 but may change in the future. The standard Inheritance Tax rate is 40%. So everything in your estate above £325,000 would get taxed at 40%.

The best way to be sure of what your tax liability may be, and how this could be reduced, is to consult a qualified professional such as an accountant, solicitor or inheritance planning specialist. Which? has a handy inheritance tax calculator which you can access and for more information about Inheritance Tax click here.