Why it's important to make a will
A will sets out who is to benefit from your property and belongings (your estate) after your death. There are many good reasons to make a will:
- you can decide how your assets are shared - if you don't have a will, the law says who gets what
- if you're an unmarried couple you can make sure your partner is provided for
- if you're divorced, you can decide whether to leave anything to your former partner
- you can make sure you don't pay more Inheritance Tax than necessary
Preparing your will
Although it is possible to write a will by yourself, it is advisable to use a solicitor as there are various legal formalities you need to follow to make sure that your will is valid. You may also need legal advice for more complicated matters. A solicitor can also advise you about how Inheritance Tax affects you.
A solicitor may be able to visit you in your own home, care home or hospital. The cost of writing up a will can vary between solicitors and will depend on how complicated your affairs may be and the experience of the solicitor. As well as solicitors, voluntary organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau and Age NI can also help with your will.
Visit the Law Society of Northern Ireland website to find a solicitor near you.
What should be included in your will
Before you write your will or talk to a solicitor, it's a good idea to think about what you want to include. You should consider:
- how much money and what property and belongings you have
- who you want to benefit from your will
- who should look after any children under 18 years of age
- who is going to sort out your estate and carry out your wishes after your death
An executor is the person responsible with passing on your estate. You can appoint an executor by naming them in your will. The courts can also appoint other people to be responsible for doing this job.
You may also wish to consider giving money to charity in your will.
Keep your will safe
Once you've made your will, it is important to keep it in a safe place and tell your executor, close friend or relative where it is. If a solicitor makes your will, they will normally keep the original and send you a copy. You can ask for the original if you wish to hold it.
Updating your will
You should review your will every five years and after any major change in your life, such as getting separated, married or divorced, having a child or moving house.
You can make changes by adding a note to your existing will, this document is called a 'codicil', or by making a new will.