Online Wills Frequently Asked Questions
If you do not make a will, then your money and property will be divided amongst your family under the rules of intestacy. This may not reflect your wishes and could lead to all of your worldly belongings being seized by the government.
What is a will?
A will is a document that sets out what you would like to happen to your property, money and belongings after you die.
A will must be written out in physical form (.pdfs, photocopies or photos will not work) and it must be correctly signed and witnessed (“executed”) to be legal.
Wills can be made either by consulting a solicitor or will writer, using a professional will writing service (such as www.makeawillonline.co.uk) or writing one yourself using a will writing pack.
Caution should be used when writing a will yourself as writing a will is a specialised skill and mistakes could cause problems and upset for your loved ones.
What is a “legacy”?
A legacy is a gift of a fixed sum of money or some other object that you leave in your will. You can leave money, property, personal possessions, shares, insurance or securities in public or private companies.
What is a “residuary”?
A residuary gift is a gift of a proportion of your estate (after all of the legacy gifts have been given away). A residuary beneficiary is someone who receives a residuary gift.
What is an “executor”?
An executor is someone who you nominate to administer the wishes in your will. It is a big responsibility so you should choose at least two people who you trust completely. Many solicitors are willing to act as executors and they tend to be very experienced (and benefit from indemnity insurance). They will usually charge your estate some money to do this though.
What is Probate?
When someone dies and their will is found the executors can make an application to get a Grant of Probate. The Grant of Probate is a court document that allows the executors to distribute the deceased’s estate in accordance with their wishes.
In order to get the Grant of Probate issued the executors must have located and valued all of the assets of the deceased, made a declaration to HMRC, and paid any Inheritance Tax due. It may be necessary for the executors to take out a loan or sell some assets in the name of the deceased’s estate in order to have access to sufficient funds to do this.
In many cases executors take professional advice from accountants or solicitors in preparing and applying for a Grant of Process as it is a highly technical and specialised area.
Can I make a will?
Wills are complex legal documents. Usually wills are written by a trained professional (a member of the Law Society, CILEX, Society of Will Writers, or Institute of Will Writers). This can either be in person, by telephone, or by using an online service such as makeawillonline.co.uk.
Any adult with capacity to understand what they are doing and make their own decisions can make a will. Someone with dementia, severe mental illness or reduced mental capacity may not be able to do this. An independent doctor is the best person to consult if you are in doubt.
Once you have made a will, you need to print it out and then sign it in front of two independent adult witnesses (who should also witness each other’s signature).
How do I store my will? Do I need to register it?
Your will needs to be stored somewhere that is safe, but also easily discoverable by your executors. You can keep your will with all of your other important documents (birth certificate, bank details etc) or you can place the will in storage with a bank or solicitor. Either way you can give a copy of your will and/or a note as to where the will can be found to your executors.
There is no requirement in England and Wales to register your will.
Can I specify what happens if someone mentioned in my will dies before I do?
Yes. When entering details of the legacy (item or money), you will have the option to “add an alternative arrangement”. By selecting this option, you can say what happens to the legacy if the intended recipient is unable to inherit.
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die without a will (or if your will cannot be discovered) then your estate will be divided in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy. These set out what relatives (spouse, children, siblings, cousins) should inherit and in what proportions. If you have no living traceable relatives then your estate will go to the Crown!
Do I need a new will if I change address?
If you move house after completing a will we recommend that you re-write the will to include the new address. This makes sure everything is up-to-date and you are identifiable. If you make a gift of your property or a right to live in it, this gift will fail once you have sold the property. It is good practice to update your will every 5 years or whenever you go through a major life change (bereavement, new addition to your family, new home, marriage, divorce etc).
I am getting married; do I need a will?
Making a will may not be the first thing you think of when planning your wedding, but you should be aware that your legal status changes upon marriage.
Importantly, any former will is automatically revoked (cancelled) unless it specifically states otherwise. This means that your estate will be divided according to the government’s intestacy rules and not according to your wishes.
It is important to update your will or create a new will whenever your circumstances change, for example getting married or entering a civil partnership, getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership, or when you have children.
Are online wills legal?
The short answer is yes; online wills are legal, if you fill in the information correctly and print, sign and witness the document correctly. With your will, you will receive a comprehensive document explaining the process and how to store your will once it has been printed, signed and witnessed.
I have a “Common Law” wife/ husband: will they inherit automatically if I die?
In England & Wales a marriage is not recognised unless it is a fully legal registered marriage. The concept of “common law” spouses does not exist. I you want your “spouse” to inherit you must make a will to state this, otherwise your estate will follow the rules of intestacy and your “spouse” may not inherit anything.
I have separated or divorced from my spouse/ civil partner; do I need a new will?
Unless you want your estate to pass to the person from whom you are separated, a new will is the only way to ensure your wishes are fulfilled.
A pair of wills or mirror wills?
Makeawillonline.co.uk offers superb-value pairs of wills. Once you have entered your details for the first will, you will have the chance to add a second document for just £10 extra. This option is perfect for married couples or civil partners.
You can either make a pair of wills or mirrored wills. The difference is that, for a pair of wills you will enter completely new information for the second will, while a mirror will reflects the information entered for the first will. However, some information must be re-entered on a mirrored will, for example the name of the testator (the person making the will), funerary instructions (burial, cremation, etc) and any individual gifts (specific legacies).
Gifts in wills to a charity
Gifts left in wills are one of the major sources of income for UK-based charities. But while almost three quarters of people in Britain support charities, less than one in ten leave a charitable gift in their last will and testament.
Our service allows you to leave a legacy of any amount of money to a charity (or charities) of your choice. You can also leave them a proportion of your estate by making the charity a residuary beneficiary. The proportion of your estate (up to 10%) that you leave to a charity will not be subject to inheritance tax.
Some people choose to make the charity into a backup residuary beneficiary in the case that there are no living relatives to inherit an estate.
Does a will have to be written by a solicitor?
In a word: no. Anyone can write a will but it is a good idea to get it done properly by a professional will writer (i.e. a member of the Society of Will Writers, IPW or a solicitor). If you have complex needs (e.g. a large estate or a dependent adult child/relative) it is worth taking further advice. Also, if there is a question about your metal capacity (e.g. illness, old age or a neurological disease such as dementia) it is worth consulting a solicitor and a doctor prior to completing a will.
What happens to my old will when I make a will online?
When you make a new will, you revoke all former wills. It is important that each new will you make includes all of your wishes. It is a good idea to take your old will as a starting point, add any new wishes/gifts (e.g. to cater for children/grandchildren, new property, charities etc). If there is a gift you do not want in your new will, you do not need to mention it at all.
If you want to make a small amendment to your will without revoking your old will you can make what is known as a “codicil”. This is useful for updating details, adding beneficiaries/executors or removing a single gift.