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Our guide to making a Will

Everything you need to know.

The importance of making a Will

Writing a Will is the only way to have full say in how your money, property and belongings are shared out and how your affairs are handled when you die.

Not writing a Will means you have no control over what will happen and loved ones may not be provided for in the way you would want them to be. Dying without a Will also risks leaving them with the stress of sorting out family disputes and financial or legal issues that could have been avoided.

A Will is simply a legal document setting out your wishes in crystal clear terms and setting one up isn’t difficult. But getting it right is important – grey areas or mistakes may turn out to be as bad as no Will at all. This is why using a legal professional makes sense especially with more affordable options available.

‘E’ words to know

Estate

Everything you own when you die – your property, possessions and financial assets less any debts. However, assets held in joint names (for instance property owned as a joint tenancy or joint bank accounts) will pass directly to the surviving co-owner.

Executors

A person you appoint to take care of your estate when you die. They make sure your wishes are followed according to your Will and are responsible for settling your financial affairs.

How our Will writing service works

  • We offer a straightforward Will writing service provided by top UK law firm and Will writing specialists
  • Expert help and support – from Hugh James Solicitors’ UK-based team every step of the way
  • A clear, fixed fee quoted upfront – so there’s no risk of costs getting out of control
  • No need to go to a solicitor’s office – everything can be arranged over the telephone or by post
  • Your Will is drafted and checked by lawyers – so you can be confident it’s right and legally binding
  • Free secure storage of your Will for safekeeping

Information to have to hand

  • The rough value of your estate – your home, money and possessions combined
  • The full names and addresses of:
    – the people you’d like to leave your estate to
    – at least two people to act as your Executors
    – anyone you wish to appoint as a guardian for children under 18
  • Any specific gifts or amounts of money you’d like to leave to certain people
  • How you’d like the rest of your estate to be shared out
  • Any funeral wishes you’d like to record

The cost of writing a Will

The cost of our professional Will writing service depends on the type of Will you need:

Type of WillPricePurpose of the Will
Single Will From £99 A Will written for one person.
Mirror Wills From £146 A mirror Will is when a husband, wife or partner make almost identical Wills leaving, for example, everything to each other respectively should one partner die, and if both die together then direct to the children. If there are no children, then to a named beneficiary.
Single Will with a trust From £146 A trust allows for some assets to be inherited at a later date (e.g. when a child turns 18)
Mirror Wills with a trust From £260
Single codicil £60 A minor change to your existing Will (e.g. changing an executor)
Mirror codicils £80 A minor change to both of your mirror Wills (e.g. changing an executor)

Reasons to make a will

1. The right people will get the right things

Writing a Will makes sure your wishes are clear and your money and possessions will be shared out in the way you want, when you die.

2. You can appoint someone to look after your affairs

A Will lets you choose the people you trust to manage your estate when you die.

3. Your partner will be taken care of

If you aren’t married or in a civil partnership, your partner could be overlooked if you don’t have a Will because the law will dictate what happens to your estate.

4. Your children will be looked after

You can set out arrangements for your children’s care, including naming a guardian with the legal right to look after the personal and financial interests of children under 18.

5. Your funeral plans can be documented for your loved ones

A Will is a good place to set out your funeral wishes. Just remember to tell someone that your funeral plans are recorded there so they know where to find them.

Remember, your circumstances may change. Things will change all the time as you go through life – relationships change, children may come along and loved ones pass away. It’s important your Will is updated to reflect your current situation so the right people will benefit when you die.

What happens if you don’t make a Will

If you don’t make a Will, you die ‘intestate’ and the rules of ‘intestacy’ will decide how your estate is shared out. These rules also override the wishes expressed in a Will that’s not legally valid, so it pays to get a Will right.

Only married or civil partners who are legally married at the time of death and some other close relatives, can inherit under intestacy rules. These people have no right to inherit from you if you die intestate:

  • Unmarried partners (the term 'common-law' is misleading)
  • Same sex couples not in a civil partnership
  • Relations by marriage (e.g. step-children)
  • Close friends
  • Carers

If you have no surviving close relatives your entire estate will go to the Crown.

I don’t have anything to leave – do I need a Will?

Even if you feel that you don’t own much of value, it’s worth writing a Will to ensure what you do have goes to the people or charity you’d like it to. It’s also important to appoint an executor to take care of your affairs when you die, which is done as part of arranging your Will.

When’s the right time to make a Will?

In short – now. You should always have an up-to-date Will and should think about writing a new Will or updating an existing one when your circumstances change – for example when you start a family or get divorced.

What is a beneficiary?

A beneficiary is simply a person who receives (benefits) from a Will.

Can the same person be an executor and beneficiary of my Will?

Yes, anyone you appoint as an executor can also be a beneficiary of your Will.

What kind of gifts can I include in my Will?

When you gift something to someone in your Will, it is called a ‘legacy’. A legacy does not need to be of high value, it’s simply something you would like to see a specific person have. Perhaps an item of sentimental value or a sum of money to a favoured charity or friend.

My children are under 18. Do I need to nominate guardians in my Will?

No you don’t have to nominate a guardian, but your Will is the ideal place to do so. If you die while your children are young with no guardian appointed, the courts will decide who should take care of your children.

Do I have to pay a professional to write my Will?

No, you can write your Will yourself if you choose to. Although be aware that if anything is unclear or wrong in your Will, that could result in confusion or even the Will being invalid, when you won’t be around to set the record straight. The benefit of paying a professional to help is that they understand the relevant rules and laws and can ensure your Will is both legally binding and correctly worded.

What is Probate?

In simple terms, Probate is a legal process to establish if a Will is valid and the Executors have the authority to administer the estate of a person who has died. Whether Probate is needed depends on the value and contents of the deceased person’s estate.

For more information, read our article Understanding Probate

How do I change my Will?

You can make minor changes to your existing Will by using an additional document called a Codicil. For example, changing the name of an executor or changing who inherits what.

Where should I keep my Will?

Your Will is an important document that should be stored safely and securely. SunLife’s Will Writing service has the benefit of free secure storage of your Will. Alternatively, you could keep it securely at home, or store it with the Probate Service for a small fee.

Don’t forget to give your executors clear instructions about where to find your Will when you die.

When’s the right time to make a Will?

In short – now. You should always have an up-to-date Will and should think about writing a new Will or updating an existing one when your circumstances change – for example when you start a family or get divorced.

What is a beneficiary?

A beneficiary is simply a person who receives (benefits) from a Will.

Can the same person be an executor and beneficiary of my Will?

Yes, anyone you appoint as an executor can also be a beneficiary of your Will.

What kind of gifts can I include in my Will?

When you gift something to someone in your Will, it is called a ‘legacy’. A legacy does not need to be of high value, it’s simply something you would like to see a specific person have. Perhaps an item of sentimental value or a sum of money to a favoured charity or friend.

My children are under 18. Do I need to nominate guardians in my Will?

No you don’t have to nominate a guardian, but your Will is the ideal place to do so. If you die while your children are young with no guardian appointed, the courts will decide who should take care of your children.

Do I have to pay a professional to write my Will?

No, you can write your Will yourself if you choose to. Although be aware that if anything is unclear or wrong in your Will, that could result in confusion or even the Will being invalid, when you won’t be around to set the record straight. The benefit of paying a professional to help is that they understand the relevant rules and laws and can ensure your Will is both legally binding and correctly worded.

What is Probate?

In simple terms, Probate is a legal process to establish if a Will is valid and the Executors have the authority to administer the estate of a person who has died. Whether Probate is needed depends on the value and contents of the deceased person’s estate.

For more information, read our article Understanding Probate

How do I change my Will?

You can make minor changes to your existing Will by using an additional document called a Codicil. For example, changing the name of an executor or changing who inherits what.

Where should I keep my Will?

Your Will is an important document that should be stored safely and securely. SunLife’s Will Writing service has the benefit of free secure storage of your Will. Alternatively, you could keep it securely at home, or store it with the Probate Service for a small fee.

Don’t forget to give your executors clear instructions about where to find your Will when you die.

The smallest print

The information contained in this guide is based on our understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2017. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This guide is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife? 

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). Phoenix Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 110418). As part of SunLife’s commitment to quality service and security, telephone calls may be recorded.

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan the funeral services are arranged and provided by Dignity Funerals Limited. Dignity Funerals Limited is a company registered in England and Wales No. 00041598. VAT registered No. 486 6081 14. 4 King Edwards Court, King Edwards Square, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP. Telephone No. 0121 354 1557. Fax No. 0121 355 808. Part of Dignity plc. A British Company. Dignity are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority but are registered providers with the Funeral Planning Authority.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

The funeral services are arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd. Golden Charter Ltd are not required to be authorised or regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority in relation to funeral plans but are registered providers with the Funeral Planning Authority.

If you choose to pay for your funeral in one go, with a single payment, you will have a contract with Golden Charter. The funeral services will be arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd.

If you choose to pay for your funeral with a life insurance policy, the policy will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife. The funeral services will be arranged by a funeral director selected by Golden Charter Ltd.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.