Making your will

Once you've decided to make your will, there is some thinking to do. You need to choose what to do with your assets and appoint people you trust to be responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out. So let Rocket Lawyer walk you through the process so that you can protect your loved ones and enjoy peace of mind.

Get started

Create your Will

Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest

Who are my executors and what do they do?

The first thing you need to do is appoint your executors (or executrixes). Your executors are the people who will carry out your wishes after your death. You can have up to four executors and they can also be beneficiaries of your Last will and testament.

Their roles include:

  • making your funeral arrangements in accordance with your instructions;
  • working out what your estate is worth;
  • deciding whether or not there is any Inheritance Tax to pay on your estate;
  • contacting HM Revenue & Customs to pay any tax which is owing; and
  • applying to the Probate Registry for the Grant of Representation of your will.

What is Probate?

The Probate Service is the part of the Family Division of the High Court in England and Wales that deals with wills.

A Grant of Probate is a document from the Family Division of the High Court which confirms that your will is valid and that your estate can be distributed in accordance with the terms of your Last will and testament.

Once your executors have received the Grant of Probate they can:

  • collect in your assets;
  • pay off your liabilities; and
  • distribute the legacies to your beneficiaries (which may include themselves).

For further information read Probate. You can also use Rocket Lawyer's Probate service from £250+VAT.

Testamentary guardians for children

Once you have decided who you would like to be your executors, you then need to consider whether or not you need to appoint any testamentary guardians in your will.

Testamentary guardians are people who will look after your children if any of them are under 18 at the time of your death.

Testamentary guardians take over the role of parental responsibility for children. For further information read Parental responsibility.


You need to decide whether you want to leave any cash legacies to any individuals or charities and if so how much.

Specific bequests

You need to decide whether there are any personal belongings of yours that you wish to leave to anybody, eg your watch or your jewellery.

You need to be careful about how you word any specific legacies of this nature so that property can be easily identified.

The rest of your estate

The last thing you need to decide is who will receive everything else in your estate (called the 'residue') after all the legacies, bills and taxes have been paid. The person or persons receiving the residue of your estate are called the 'residual beneficiaries'.

If there is more than one residual beneficiary, you will need to decide if they receive the residue in equal or unequal shares. Also, if any of your chosen residual beneficiaries dies before you, do you want their legacy to pass to any of their children?

What is a mirror will?

A mirror will is when spouses make almost identical wills, for example, by leaving everything to each other should one spouse die, or if spouses both die together, then directly to their children.

A joint will is also possible, however, it can't be changed unless both parties to the will agree.

Inheritance tax

Inheritance tax is a tax on your estate. There’s normally no inheritance tax to pay if:

  • The value of your estate is below the £325,000 threshold (the tax-free allowance or 'nil rate band').
  • You leave everything to your spouse or civil partner, charity or a community amateur sports club.

The tax-free allowance is increased to £425,000 if you leave your estate to your children (including adopted, foster or stepchildren) or grandchildren.

Spouses or civil partners can also pass on their unused tax-free allowance to their spouse tax-free. For example, if a husband dies and his estate was under £325,000, his wife can take his allowance and add it to her own tax-free allowance. This combined allowance means that when she dies, her estate will only incur inheritance tax if it is worth more than £650,000.

Inheritance tax is normally paid from the funds in the estate, or from money raised from the sale of assets if the estate has no cash. For further information read Inheritance tax.

You will need to review your will from time to time

It is important that you review your will and amend it to reflect any changes in your life. For instance, you may want to include any future children as residual beneficiaries. See Reasons to make a will for more information.

Making changes to your will

You can make changes to your will by using a codicil - a document that allows you to make amendments to an existing will without completely re-writing it. Ideally, a codicil should be kept with your original will - codicils can get lost and raise questions over the original will.

Formally signing and executing your will

There are very strict formalities which you must follow when signing your will.

Read Executing a will to find out what you need to do.

Assets outside of the UK

Many people have foreign assets outside of the UK. This is especially true if people move to different countries, have dual nationality or own holiday homes outside the UK.

Those with foreign assets are often advised to make a will dependent on where the assets are located, eg if you have assets located in the UK and in France, you should make two wills; one dealing with assets in England and Wales and another dealing with assets located in France.

This is because each country have different laws regarding inheritance, probate and even tax on assets. An international will would have to be drawn up by a local lawyer of that country, taking into account the rules on inheritance and probate of that country. This will make it easier to implement the will and make sure it is valid and recognised when the issue of foreign assets arises.

If you decide to create multiple wills, it's essential that they don't conflict with each other or revoke (ie cancel) the other wills. Your solicitor in each country will have to liaise with the other(s) to make sure this does not happen.

Testamentary disposition

The UK has relatively flexible rules on inheritance and how we can leave our assets in our wills. A testator in the UK has complete freedom to leave their assets to whomever they want. This is known as 'testamentary freedom'. However many foreign countries do not allow or recognise testamentary freedom. Many countries apply a concept called 'forced heirship', where a percentage of the person's assets must be transferred to their 'heirs' at the time of death. Forced heirship is a policy adopted in France and Spain, but also applies in many other European countries.

It is possible to disapply the rules on forced heirship. This will depend on many factors such as where the testator currently lives, where they hold property and what law the testator has decided will apply to their will. It is best to speak to a lawyer within the country where you hold assets and work out what is best for you.

Get started

Create your Will

Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest