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Writing a will
All About Writing A Will

Although it is not required by law, the majority of people will end up writing a will, principally to gain peace of mind in knowing that their wishes will be met when they die.

By taking the time to write a living will or do some estate planning, you can decide on the distribution of your assets including property and possessions after your death. If you die without a will, the law will decide on the distribution of your estate rather than following your personal requests.

What are the benefits of writing a will?

  • By estate planning, you can take responsibility on how your estate is to be shared amongst family and friends.

  • If you die without writing a will, this can cause much confusion and strife amongst your loved ones.

  • If you die without writing a will, the law will be responsible for dividing your estate in a way that may not be satisfactory to you or your family.

  • By writing a will, you can ensure your spouse, civil partner and children are adequately provided for and looked-after.

  • You can avoid paying more Inheritance Tax than is necessary by law by estate planning. Remember that Scottish law on inheritance differs from English law.

How to write a living will

There are some people who end up writing a will themselves, but it is prudent to employ the professional services of a solicitor because:

  • There may be areas within the process of writing a will where you may require legal expertise including advice on more complicated matters.

  • It is also vital to follow certain legal procedures to guarantee that the way in which you have written your will is valid.

  • It is useful to get advice on Inheritance Tax and how you can avoid it, when estate planning and writing a will.

The cost of writing a will depends on:

  • the degree of complexity involved the distribution of your overall estate

  • the experience and reputation of the your appointed solicitor

Those who want to write their wills themselves or just want more advice about writing a will can approach these organisations:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau

  • Age Concern

The contents of your living will

In preparation for writing a will, you need to consider the following:

  • Determine exactly how much money, what property, and possessions you own for your will.

  • Decide who will be the beneficiaries when estate planning.

  • Decide who would be responsible for the care of any children under 18 years old when writing a will.

  • Decide on your executor who is the person in charge of ensuring your wishes are carried out accordingly after your death when estate planning.

Things to do after you have written your will:

  • Keep your will or living will in a safe place, for example, in a personal safe or in your appointed solicitor's offices.

  • Inform your executor, close friend, or relative of your will's location.

  • Review your will every five years to make sure your estate planning is as you still want it to be.

  • Update your will especially if you have experienced any major life changes such as marriage, separation, divorce, having a child or moving house.

  • Any alteration when writing a will must be recorded by 'codicil' which means a legal addition, amendment, or supplement to a will. Alternatively, you need to write a new will to incorporate any changes, for the will to be valid.

What is a living will?

  • Living wills include general statements or advance statements which clarify an adult's right to agree to or refuse medical treatment, should you lose mental capacity.

  • Living wills could include specific refusal of certain treatments, which has a different legal status.

  • When writing a living will, bear in mind that new drugs or treatments may be introduced in the future.

  • Living wills are not legally binding, but health professionals have to base their medical decisions on them.

  • A living will does not follow a specific format.

  • A living will can be set out verbally, but a written living will is obviously clearer to follow.

  • You do not need the services of a solicitor to write a living will.
  • You can still make a living will if you are diagnosed with a mental illness, provided you can show adequate mental competence.

  • Make sure your written living will is accessible in your medical file.

  • Make the contents of your written and/or verbal living will known to your doctor, your hospital, and your relatives.

The following can help you with writing a living will:

  • Solicitors specialising in mental health or community care

  • Mind Legal Advice line

  • Your care co-ordinator, doctor, advocacy service

  • Citizens Advice Bureau

Clearly, there are many considerations involved when writing a will, doing estate planning, and also writing a living will. It's best to address these issues now, so you can have the peace of mind in knowing that matters will be left as you want them to be when you pass away.

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