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Making a will

Nobody wants to think about dying, but it's important to think about what will happen to your possessions when you die, particularly if you're buying a home, getting married or entering a civil partnership, or starting a family. This page explains more about why you should make a will and how to go about doing it.

Why should I make a will?

Most people don't want to think about what happens when they die, and many may feel uncomfortable about raising the idea of making a will with their husband, wife, partner or family. However, there are many convincing reasons for taking control of your future and making a will. Instead of thinking about it in a negative way, remember that making a will is a way of ensuring your wishes are followed when you die and of making sure that your home, money and possessions go to the people you want them to go to. It is always worth making a will, even if you think you have nothing worth leaving to anyone.

Protecting the people you leave behind

Many people assume that when they die, their possessions, such as their home, furniture, jewellery and savings, will automatically go to their wife or husband, their partner or their children.

In fact this is not the case. If you die 'intestate', that is, without leaving a will, the law decides who gets your possessions, not you or your partner or family. Just because you’re married to someone or have lived with them for a long time, it doesn’t mean that they have any legal right to inherit your possessions when you die.

For example, if you own your home and are married or in a civil partnership, your wife, husband or partner will automatically inherit the value your home, provided it is worth less than £300,000. If your home is worth more than this, they will be entitled to inherit the sum of £300,000, but your home may have to be sold. Likewise, your spouse or partner is only entitled to £24,000 worth of furniture. (These amounts are different in English law.)

Once these amounts have been taken out of your estate, if anything is left, the law sets out who should inherit it.

However, if you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership, they may not be entitled to anything at all, unless you leave a will setting out your wishes.

If you own your home, make sure you know whether you own your home in your sole name or jointly with your partner. Ask a solicitor to explain the position to you. Even if you’ve lived in your home for a long time, don’t assume that you own it jointly. If you own your home in your sole name and you want to make sure your partner inherits it when you die it is especially important that you make a will straight away.

Leaving legacies

Writing a will also gives you a chance to make donations to charity and leave legacies to friends and family members (for example, sums of money, jewellery or other items). If you're thinking of leaving some money to a charity, you can order a copy of free will-making guide.

How do I make a will?

If you want to be certain that your wishes will be carried out properly after your death, it's best to get a will drawn up by a solicitor. You can write your own will, or buy or download a kit to help you, but if you don't have a full understanding of the law, you might not think of everything, and the will may be easier to challenge (or 'contest') after your death. You can find details of solicitors at the Law Society of Scotland website.

Unless your financial or family situation is complicated, making a will is usually a fairly quick, straightforward procedure. You may not even need to go to see a solicitor, but can tell them what you want and listen to their advice over the phone. If you're in the process of buying or selling a home, your solicitor can draw up a will for you as part of the conveyancing process.

If you do decide to buy a will-writing kit, make sure you buy one that relates to Scottish law, not English law, as the laws about intestacy are different in England.

How much does making a will cost?

The cost of drawing up a will depends on how complicated your situation is, but a basic will costs from around £95. 

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
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The important points

  • If you die without leaving a will (dying intestate) the law decides who gets your possessions, they don't automatically go to your partner or family.
  • If you own your home, make sure you know whose name the deeds are in so you can leave it directly to your partner if you want them to inherit the house.
  • Your will needs to relate to Scottish law because the rules about wills are different from in England.
  • A solicitor can help you make a will as part of their work when they help you buy your house (conveyancing).

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