Try our new claimant diary and help us push for change.
Courts state that overtime should be included in holiday pay
Debt and money
How you'll be affected by the 2016 changes to State Pension
Join our campaign to get a fairer deal for energy customers with a prepayment meter.
Advice for people affected by child abuse.
Landlords to check new tenants' immigration status before renting
Law and rights
Where to get free or low cost legal advice.
What are hate incidents? What is hate crime? Find out how you can report them.
Find out how to complain about your doctor or health visitor.
How to get help with the costs of school uniforms, transport and the other essentials of school life.
About Citizens Advice
This advice applies to England:
Advice can vary depending on where you live.
Advice for other parts of the UK:
This advice applies to
It is important for you to make a will whether or not you consider you have many possessions or much money. It is important to make a will because:-
If you are in any doubt as to whether or not you should make a will, you should consult a solicitor or a Citizens Advice Bureau who can give you lists of solicitors. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
For more information about what happens if someone dies without making a will in England and Wales, see Who can inherit if there is no will – the rules of intestacy.
There is no need for a will to be drawn up or witnessed by a solicitor. If you wish to make a will yourself, you can do so. However, you should only consider doing this if the will is going to be straightforward.
It is generally advisable to use a solicitor or to have a solicitor check a will you have drawn up to make sure it will have the effect you want. This is because it is easy to make mistakes and, if there are errors in the will, this can cause problems after your death. Sorting out misunderstandings and disputes after your death may result in considerable legal costs, which will reduce the amount of money in the estate.
You should remember that a solicitor will charge for their services in drawing up or checking a will. They should give you the best possible information about the cost of their services. They should give you this at the beginning of their work with you.
Some common mistakes in making a will are:-
There are some circumstances when it is particularly advisable to use a solicitor. These are where:-
If you are a member of a trade union, you may find that the union offers a free will writing service. A union will often use its own solicitors to undertake this work.
There are books which provide guidance on how to draw up a will. These can help you decide if you should draw up your own will and also help you decide if any of the pre-printed will forms available from stationers and charities are suitable. It is also possible to find help on the internet.
Will-writing services are available. However, will-writing firms are not regulated by the Law Society so there are few safeguards if things go wrong. If you decide to use a will-writing firm, consider using one that belongs to The Institute of Professional Willwriters which has a code of practice approved by the Trading Standards Institute Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS). Traders in this scheme display the TSI approved code logo. When you see the logo it means that the trader has agreed to provide good standards of service including clear information before a contract is signed, a clear complaints procedure and access to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme for settling out of court.
Search for a will writing firm belonging to The Institute of Professional Willwriters, approved by the Trading Standards Institute Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS).
The charges for drawing up a will vary between solicitors and also depend on the complexity of the will. Before making a decision on who to use, it is always advisable to check with a few local solicitors to find out how much they charge. You may have access to legal advice through an addition to an insurance policy which might cover the costs of a solicitor preparing or checking a will. If you are a member of a trade union you may find that the union offers a free wills service to members.
The charity Will Aid has set up a partnership between certain solicitors and nine well-known charities. Every November, participating solicitors will write a basic will free of charge in return for a donation to Will Aid. The suggested minimum donation is £90 for a basic single will or £135 for a pair of identical wills for a couple. More information about Will Aid, together with details of participating solicitors, is available at www.willaid.org.uk.
It is also worth you giving some thought to what you want to say in the will before seeing a solicitor. This should help reduce the costs involved.
In Northern Ireland, you may be able to get help with the legal costs of making a will under the green form scheme.
For more information about the green form scheme in Northern Ireland, see Help with legal costs.
To save time and reduce costs when going to a solicitor, you should give some thought to the major points which you want included in your will. You should consider such things as:-
Executors are the people who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes and for sorting out the estate. They will have to collect together all the assets of the estate, deal with all the paperwork and pay all the debts, taxes, funeral and administration costs out of money in the estate. They will need to pay out the gifts and transfer any property to beneficiaries.
It is not necessary to appoint more than one executor although it is advisable to do so, for example, in case one of them dies. It is common to appoint two, but up to four executors can take on responsibility for administering the will after a death. The people most commonly appointed as executors are:-
It is important to choose executors with considerable care since their job involves a great deal of work and responsibility. You should always approach anyone you are thinking of appointing as an executor to see if they will agree to take on the responsibility. If someone is appointed who is not willing to be an executor, they have a right to refuse.
If an executor dies, any other surviving executor(s) can deal with the estate. If there are no surviving executors, legal advice should be sought.
For more information about what executors have to do in England and Wales, see Dealing with the financial affairs of someone who has died.
In order for a will to be valid, it must be:-
Although it will be legally valid even if it is not dated, it is advisable to ensure that the will also includes the date on which it is signed.
As soon as the will is signed and witnessed, it is complete.
If someone makes a will but it is not legally valid, on their death their estate will be shared out under certain rules, not according to the wishes expressed in the will.
For more information about the rules if someone dies without leaving a valid will in England and Wales, see Who can inherit if there is no will – the rules of intestacy.
The requirements for a valid will are less stringent for service personnel on active service. Such wills are known as privileged wills.
If you need further help about privileged wills, you can contact your nearest citizens advice bureau or seek legal advice.
Once a will has been made, it should be kept in a safe place and other documents should not be attached to it. There are a number of places where you can keep a will:-
at the Principal Registry of the Family Division of the High Court, a District Registry or Probate Sub-Registry for safe keeping. If you wish to deposit a will in this way you should visit the District Registry or Probate Sub-Registry or write to:-The Probate DepartmentThe Principal Registry of the Family DivisionFirst Avenue House42-49 High HolbornLondon WC1V 6NPTel: 020 7947 6000In Northern Ireland, wills can be deposited with:-Probate OfficeRoyal Courts of JusticeChichester StreetBelfast BT1 3JFTel: 028 9072 4678Email: email@example.com
District Probate OfficeThe Court HouseBishop StreetLondonderry BT48 6PYTel: 028 7126 1832
Someone close to you may have died and you think they made a will but you can't find one in their home. Check to see if you can find a certificate of deposit, which will have been sent to them if they arranged for the will to be kept by the Principal Registry of the Family Division. Even if you can't find a certificate of deposit, you can still check with the Registry to see if they hold the will. If the person died in a care home or a hospital you could check to see if the will was left with them. You should also contact the person's solicitor, accountant or bank to see if they hold the will.
The person who has died, or their solicitor, may have registered their will with a commercial organisation such as Certainty (www.certainty.co.uk) and after the person's death, you can pay for a search of the wills registered on the company's database. You can also ask the company to contact solicitors in the area where the person lived to ask if they hold a will.
If you can't find a will, you will usually have to deal with the estate of the person who has died as if they died without leaving a will. For more information, see Who can inherit if there is no will – the rules of intestacy.
When someone dies, the person who is dealing with their estate (for example, money and property) must usually get authorisation to do so from the Probate Service. If there is a will, this authorisation is called a grant of probate. When probate is granted, the will is kept by the Probate Service and any member of the public can get a copy.
If you want to search for the will of a person who died recently, you can apply to the Probate Service for a standing search to be made. They will check their records to see if a grant of probate has been made in the twelve months before your application, and they will continue to check for six months afterwards. If a grant has been made, they will send you a copy of the grant and a copy of the will, if any. A fee is payable. You can renew your search at the end of six months for a further fee. It may be advisable to wait two or three months after the death before you apply for a search.
You can find out how to apply for a standing search and how much it costs on the website of HM Courts and Tribunals Service at www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk.
If you want to do your own search, or if you want to search for the will of someone who died more than twelve months ago, you can do a general search. A general search by the Probate Registry will cover a four year period and a fee is payable. If you go to the Probate Registry to do the search yourself, no charge is made, but you still have to pay to get a copy of the grant of probate and the will, if any.
You can find out how to apply for a general search and how much it costs on the website of HM Courts and Tribunals Service at www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk
The Probate Office will send copies of the wills that it holds direct to the individual. Fees should be paid by crossed cheque or postal order made payable to the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals service. The fee for an actual copy of the will is £5 or £10 for a certified copy. There may be an additional fee for a search to be carried out depending on the information that you have about the will. In this case it is advisable to contact the Probate Office at the following address:
The Probate Office2nd Floor, Royal Courts of JusticeChichester StreetBelfast BT1 3JF
Telephone: 028 9072 4678
In Northern Ireland, if you want to make a personal search, you should contact the Probate Office, (see under heading Where to keep a will), which will be able to tell you where to go and any fees that are payable.
In Northern Ireland, if the District Probate Registry dealt with the will (see above) it is possible to inspect the documents there.
You can make a personal search free of charge by going to the Principal Registry of the Family Division (see under heading Where to keep a will). If you want to inspect or take a copy of the will, there is a fee of £5.
In Northern Ireland, you should contact the Probate Office, (see under heading Where to keep a will), which will be able to tell you where to go to make a personal search, and any fees that are payable.
In England and Wales, you can order a copy of a will or grant of probate at any District Probate Registry. You will need to give the full name of the person who died, the date probate was granted and the name of the registry office where it was issued. The fee is £5. To find a District Probate Registry, go to HM Courts Service website at: www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk.
When a will has been made, it is important to keep it up to date to take account of changes in circumstances. It is advisable for you to reconsider the contents of a will regularly to make sure that it still reflects your wishes. The most common changes of circumstances which affect a will are:-
You may want to change your will because there has been a change of circumstances. You must not do this by amending the original will after it has been signed and witnessed. Any obvious alterations on the face of the will are assumed to have been made at a later date and so do not form part of the original legally valid will.
The only way you can change a will is by making:-
A codicil is a supplement to a will which makes some alterations but leaves the rest of it intact. This might be done, for example, to increase a cash legacy, change an executor or guardian named in a will, or to add beneficiaries.
A codicil must be signed by the person who made the will and be witnessed in the same way. However, the witnesses do not have to be the same as for the original will.
There is no limit on how many codicils can be added to a will, but they are only suitable for very straightforward changes. If a complicated change is involved, it is usually advisable to make a new will.
If you wish to make major changes to a will, it is advisable to make a new one. The new will should begin with a clause stating that it revokes all previous wills and codicils. The old will should be destroyed. Revoking a will means that the will is no longer legally valid.
If you want to destroy a will, you must burn it, tear it up or otherwise destroy it with the clear intention that it is revoked. There is a risk that if a copy subsequently reappears (or bits of the will are reassembled), it might be thought that the destruction was accidental. You must destroy the will yourself or it must be destroyed in your presence. A simple instruction alone to an executor to destroy a will has no effect. If the will is destroyed accidentally, it is not revoked and can still be declared valid.
Although a will can be revoked by destruction, it is always advisable that a new will should contain a clause revoking all previous wills and codicils. Revoking a will means that the will is no longer legally valid.
If a person who made a will commits suicide, the will is still valid.
A person may want to challenge a will because:-
There are strict time limits for challenging a will and if you want to challenge a will, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. If you want to challenge the will because you believe you haven't been adequately provided for, the time limit is six months from the grant of probate. Your local CAB can give you lists of solicitors. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by email, click on nearest CAB.
If you are named in someone else's will as an executor, you may have to apply for probate so that you can deal with their estate.
For more information about probate, see Dealing with the financial affairs of someone who has died.
Send from your own account or: