How to make a will

A Will must be in writing and signed by you and two witnesses. A Will is not valid unless it complies with certain formalities so we recommend you seek professional advice.

Before you visit your solicitor it is useful to do some preparation as it might save you money – most solicitors charge on a time basis. List your assets and their approximate values, and any debts, especially large ones such as a mortgage.

You may wish to include your funeral arrangements in your Will, to ensure your precise wishes are carried out.

Decide who you would like to benefit. You may wish to start with family, friends and favourite charities such as RCVS Knowledge. There are three main types of gifts that you make in your Will:

  • A specific legacy is an item such as jewellery or property. You can also bequeath specific personal assets such as stocks and shares, literary rights, books, art and antiques.  If you are considering leaving a collection of books to the Library, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss your plans with you before you commit them to your Will.
    • A pecuniary legacy is a fixed sum of money. Inflation will however erode the value of a pecuniary gift over time. It is a good idea to review pecuniary gifts regularly or opt for residuary legacies.
    • A residuary legacy is a share of what is left of your estate when other gifts and liabilities are paid. You can choose to leave the entire residue to one person or charity, or to divide it among a number of beneficiaries.

Choose Executors, such as a close friend or relative and a legal professional, who you can rely on to make sure your instructions are carried out.

Keep your Will safe and make sure someone knows where it is. It is advisable to leave your Will with your solicitor or bank where it can easily be found. It is useful to keep a copy yourself.

It makes good sense to review your Will regularly to make sure it still accurately reflects your wishes. If your circumstances change significantly you should think about making changes to your Will.

Small changes can be made with a codicil – an addition to your existing Will that should be drawn up by your solicitor. The cost may be significantly less than having a new Will written.