How to Make a Last Will

This is part of Cake’s collection of articles on estate planning. Create your free Cake profile today to discover, document, and share your end-of-life wishes.

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Depending on the circumstances, writing or creating your own will can be—dare we say—a piece of cake. But for most of us, it takes a bit of effort. Online and free wills are good stopgaps if you’re unable to afford the services of a solicitor. Whether you create your own will or work with a solicitor, here are the steps you will want to follow to prepare your will. 

Step 1: Make an inventory of your assets

Even if you follow a template to prepare your last will and testament, you will need to compile a few things to make it a more straightforward process. Prepare a list of assets including property, bank accounts, investments, vehicles, personal or family heirlooms, and any other important items to be given to loved ones or organisations. As best you can, try to give a value to everything on your list. Some assets may be harder to value than others. Finally, write down any debts you owe and who holds the debts. Those debts may need to be repaid from your estate when you pass.

Here’s a list of possible assets to help you get started:

  • Cash and bank accounts
  • Business interests
  • Investments
  • Real estate including residence, rental properties, land
  • Vehicles including cars, boats, planes, etc.
  • Life insurance policies
  • Expected inheritance from others
  • Personal effects

After you take into account all of your assets, the next step is to list the heirs to your estate. This can include family, friends, or even organisations. Anyone who you want to receive items or money should be listed. And make sure all names are written and spelt correctly so there is no confusion as to who gets what. You might want to include conditions like the heir, also called a beneficiary, must be alive, and if they aren’t, who would be next in line for the inheritance. You can specify if there are certain assets you want to leave to each person, or you could divide total assets by percentages. For example, “I want to leave 50% of my estate to my wife, and 25% each to my two children.” If there are charities you care about, you can also specify that a donation should be made in your honour. 

2. Choose a guardian for minors and/or pets

If you are a parent or guardian to minors, make sure to include information on who is to take over as their primary guardian if you and your spouse die. This goes for pets, too. It's good to specify alternate guardians in case your primary choice is unable or unwilling to fulfil this role in the future.  Always check with the person you’re choosing before assigning them guardianship of your children or pet upon your death.  They are not required to take on this role, so you will want to make sure you're choosing someone willing to take on this responsibility if the need arises.

3. Choose an executor of your will

Once you’ve taken assets and guardianship into account, you’ll need to choose an executor to oversee the processing of the will. An executor is simply a person you choose to liquidate and distribute your assets according to your wishes. You can also designate an alternate executor in case your primary choice is unable or unwilling to take on the responsibility. Most people choose a trusted family member or friend to fill this role. If you don’t appoint an executor, the courts will appoint one after your death. 

Some people opt to appoint professional executors for a fee, especially when they don't feel they have a responsible family member they can nominate for this role.  If you're looking to appoint a professional executor, explore the executor services offered by NatWest:

NatWest Premier customers: Learn more here

NatWest Personal customers: Learn more here

4. Create your will 

People with uncomplicated estates, no dependents, or lower net worth are more likely to create their own will. These days, there are numerous free and paid online will creation tools to help with the task at hand. Individuals with dependents, higher net worth, and more complex estates should look into working with a solicitor to create their will. A professional can help structure your legal documents to avoid excess estate taxes for your heirs and reduce the likelihood of family conflict that can arise when handling high net worth estates.

Work with Hugh James solicitors
If you feel nervous about preparing your own will from a template, or if you have a complicated estate with dependents, working with a solicitor might be the right route for you. NatWest offers will-writing services to banking customers in England and Wales in partnership with Hugh James solicitors.

Are you interested in handling your will?
Learn more about the NatWest Will and Executor services.

NatWest Premier customers: Learn more here

NatWest Personal customers: Learn more here

5. Securely store and share your completed will

No matter how you create your will, it's important to store it in a safe and secure place and make sure your family and executor know exactly where the original document is stored. The original document is required for the executor to initiate the probate process. 

Once your will is made legal, be sure to upload a copy to the "Documents" section of your Cake account. Your Cake account is the perfect place to securely store and share access to a digital copy of your will. When you upload the file, you can "add a note" to remind your family where the original document is stored (e.g. "my solicitor has the original"). This will save them time hunting through drawers and closets. They will appreciate that someday!