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Free wills: what you need to know

Every year thousands of people aged 55 and over take advantage of the opportunity to get their will written as part of Free Wills Month. With the latest campaign set to launch on 3 October, Nicola Waldman, private client solicitor at law firm Hodge Jones & Allen outlines five things every person should think about before they make their will:

1) Think carefully about your executors

When you go to your solicitor be sure to have thought carefully about who you want to appoint as your executor. You can have more than one executor but no more than four. Upon your death they are legally responsible for distributing your estate in accordance with the terms of your will. Beneficiaries of your will can also be executors.

Handling the full administration of someone’s estate can be time-consuming and can take months or even years, so you should ensure you have spoken to the individual(s) about this, making sure they understand what is involved.

When you go to see your solicitor to make your will, be sure to take the full name(s) and addresses of your executors with you. Once your will is written, you should also make sure you tell your executor where the will is stored.

2) What do you want for your funeral?

It’s not a subject that most people want to think about. However, it’s better to have a rough idea in your head that you can include in your will (or be left as a note with it) so that someone else doesn’t have to make those decisions for you. Considering whether you want to be buried or cremated, whether you want a religious service and whether you want to pay for your funeral in advance will help your executors ensure you get the funeral you want.

3) Know the value of your estate

Be clear about the total value of your estate. Write down the value of all your major assets including: your home (or your share in it), other property or land, cars and other vehicles, items of particular value, such as jewellery or art, savings and shares, life insurance and pensions.

4) Who will benefit?

You will need to provide your solicitor with the full names and addresses of anyone you wish to benefit from your estate – often called the residuary estate – once any liabilities have been paid and after any specific gifts of property or money have been given to the intended beneficiaries.

If you want to gift money or specific items to people, you will need to list the items or amounts and provide the name and addresses of the beneficiaries.

5) Be tax aware and ask your solicitor about the new Residence Nil-Rate Band

The government raked in £4.7 billion in inheritance tax in the year end to April – up 22% on the year before.

The threshold for paying inheritance tax is currently set at £325,000 but there are exemptions and reliefs available for certain types of gifts and property. Plus, there is no inheritance tax to pay on gifts left to a spouse, civil partner or UK-registered charity.

Also, there is a new residence nil-rate band starting at £100,000 per person that will provide an additional relief on top of inheritance tax for deaths on or after 6th April 2017, where your main residence is being left to direct descendants, i.e. children, grandchildren step, adopted or foster children.

Nicola Waldman, partner at Hodge Jones & Allen says: “Making a will is something many people continually put off but if you die without making a will, you will have no control over what happens to your assets. Further, you are at risk of potentially paying more tax than you need.”


1) Free Wills Month launches on 3rd October 2016. In October, Hodge Jones & Allen is supporting ‘Make a Will Fortnight’ in conjunction with St John’s Hospice.

Notes for Editors

Hodge Jones and Allen

Hodge Jones and Allen is one of the UK’s most progressive law firms, renowned for doing things differently and fighting injustice.

For almost 40 years’ the firm has been at the centre of many of the UK’s landmark legal cases that have changed the lives and rights of many people.

The firm’s team of specialists have been operating across: Personal Injury, Medical Negligence, Industrial Disease, Civil Liberties, Criminal Defence, Court of Protection, Dispute Resolution, Employment, Family Law, Military Claims, Serious Fraud, Social Housing, Wills & Probate and Property Disputes.

Co-founder Patrick Allen is still at the helm of the firm he co-founded in 1977.

In 2016 the firm launched Hearing their voices – a campaign to raise awareness and build conversations around the issues and the injustices we might all face.