How to write your own Will – what you must include
Updated: Apr 7
Your simple, clear and easy-to-use guide on how to write your own Will.
DIY Wills and homemade Wills are increasingly common nowadays. This article outlines the information which you must include in your Will.
More and more organisations and online companies are providing services for you to produce DIY Wills or to write your own Will.
Whilst there are great dangers in writing your own Will, people still prefer it over the conventional Will-writer or solicitor route as they view it as a simple, fast and easy approach.
However, sometimes the effectiveness of the document can be risked by prioritising the quick and easy route.
Nonetheless, whilst this article does not constitute legal advice in itself, it does outline the essential clauses which should be included when writing your own Will, including the following:
Opening words or commencement;
Appointment of executors;
Legacies (or simply just, 'gifts');
Gifts of residue; and
An attestation clause.
The risks of writing your own Will
DIY Wills are seen as the good value option as they are one of the cheapest options available, whether it be an off-the-shelf Will pack from a store or an online equivalent.
The vendors advertise them as the “quick”, “easy”, “simple” or “fast” way to write your own Will.
However, another apt adjective is that they are indeed “risky”.
Writing a Will is more than just writing about what you want to give, and to whom.
If you make any errors drawing up the Will or fail to get it witnessed correctly, your Will will be invalid and ineffective.
Accordingly, your family and loved ones will be left with stress and problems, whether it be through a lack of financial provision or your estate becoming depleted by legal bills and unnecessary tax.
However, DIY Wills are often a suitable option for those with small estates who plan to leave all their property to one person, such as a spouse.
Though, care must still be taken when writing your Will from simple things like spelling names correctly to the more important things which must be included to make your Will effective.
We explore the latter below.
What must I contain in my Will?
1. Opening Words or commencement
The main purpose of this clause is to identify the testator and the nature of the document.
The full name and address of the testator should be stated.
The testator’s occupation may also be included as further identification.
If the testator holds property in any other name, then the Will should also state this other name and indicate that the testator is also known by it.
This will help later on in the application for the grant of representation, otherwise difficulties in proving the identity may ensue.
It is a legal requirement that the testator intended to make a Will in order for the Will to be valid.
As such, a statement that the document is the ‘last Will’ or ‘last Will and testament’ should be contained in the Will.
There is no legal difference between the phrases ‘last Will’ or ‘last Will and testament’.
The date may appear in the start or commencement of the Will, or at the end.
There is no legal requirement that a Will should be dated for it to be valid, unless the Will appoints a guardian of a person under the age of 18.
However, it is good practice to date the Will as it provides clarity and certainty in case the testator has numerous Wills and a timeline is needed to provide which takes precedence.
Where the testator intends to marry in the near future, he should state that the Will is made in expectation of that marriage and that he does not wish the marriage to revoke the Will.
This is because, without such a clause, a Will is automatically revoked by any subsequent marriage or formation of a civil partnership.
However, the conversion of a civil partnership to a same-sex marriage does not automatically revoke or affect an existing Will.
3. Revocation Clause
The purpose of this clause is to provide that all earlier Wills and codicils are expressly revoked and should appear near the beginning of the Will.
Without an express revocation clause, any later Will impliedly revokes earlier Wills and codicils to the extent that the later Will is inconsistent with the earlier provisions.
This can cause the administration of your estate to become complex and confusing as there will be more than one source of instructions to navigate through and it may be not what you intended.
An express revocation clause removes this risk by wholly revoking any earlier Will or codicil in its entirety.
Where the testator has another Will dealing with his foreign property, it is necessary to consider whether these are to be revoked.
If not, the revocation clause must make this intention clear.
4. Appointment of Executors
The purpose of this clause is to appoint your executors – the people you choose to administer your estate.
If you do not have any validly-appointed executors, the courts will appoint an ‘administrator’ who will perform the same role.
There is no maximum number of executors you can name in a Will; however, only a maximum of four people can apply for the grant of probate at any given time, so there is no real merit in naming more than four.
The minimum number of executors is one which is often suitable for a small, simple estate where the executor is the sole or main beneficiary.
However, due to possibilities of this appointment failing; such as the chosen person predeceasing you or even divorcing you (the effect of divorce on a Will is that your spouse is deemed to have died on the date of the divorce, so any appointment of them as executor will not take effect), it is prudent to nominate more than one or have a substitute executor.
Indeed, with larger or more complicated estates, it may be useful to have more than one executor, and even to have executors for separate parts of your estate.
The usual nominee categories are:
Close individuals you know and trust (such as family or friends);
Solicitors or other professionals; and
Banks or other trust corporations.
If you do choose a professional executor, you will also need to consider a charging clause.
An executor is unable to profit from his position, unless authorised.
5. Legacies ('gifts')
This concerns the gifts of certain assets or money which you may wish to make.
A gift of personal property (such as a car or watch) is known as a ‘legacy’.
A gift of land or realty is known as a ‘devise’.
‘Gift’ applies to either and there are various types.