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Why do I need a will?

By making a will, you can ensure that your possessions are passed on to the people and charities that you have chosen. If you do not have a will, the state will decide how your property should be distributed.

How do I make a will?

We suggest that you choose a solicitor to write your will. If you don't know any solicitors, we recommend you call the Law Society on 0131 226 7411 or visit

You should be clear about the amount and type of gift you would like to leave to your beneficiaries. Before consulting a solicitor, consider the value of your possessions and decide what you would like to leave, and to whom. Our 'Valuing your assets' form can help you do this.

What can I say in a will? 

When you make a will you can say how you would like your financial affairs to be dealt with after your death. But wills are not just about money. For example, you can also use your will to say what kind of funeral you want and if you would like donations at your funeral to go to a charity you're passionate about. If you have legal responsibility for a grandchild or child you can name guardians for them and you can arrange for the care of pets.

How much does it cost to make a will? 

Solicitors' fees for will writing vary from firm to firm and also according to the complexity of the will.

As a rough guide it could cost around £100 plus VAT for a straightforward single will and £160 plus VAT for a straightforward mirror will.  Comparative costs can be obtained easily by phoning a few solicitors in your area.

You could use the National Free Wills Network to have your will written for free.

What are the different types of legacy?

A residuary legacy is the gift of the remainder of your estate (or a percentage of the remainder) after all other gifts to friends and family have been distributed and all outgoings have been dealt with.

A residuary legacy is especially valuable to Shelter Scotland because the growing value of your assets protects it against inflation.

A pecuniary legacy is a fixed sum of money that tends to decrease in value over time because of inflation. For example, a legacy of £1,000 written into a will in 1980 would now be worth less than £380. However, it is possible to index-link a pecuniary legacy, to ensure that the legacy maintains its intended value.

Will I have to pay inheritance tax?

Taxation rules change frequently.  Your solicitor can provide will tax-planning advice or arrange for the services of an accountant or tax adviser. A will can allow you to take tax into account and maximise how much you leave to others. For example there is currently no inheritance tax payable on a gift left to charity in your will and if you leave 10% of your estate to charity, your IHT liability reduces from 40% to 36%.

Why should I keep my will up to date?

Once a will has been made, it is important to keep it up to date and account for any changes in your circumstances. For example, you may now have had a child or grandchild, you may have moved home, or your financial situation may have changed. It is also advisable to reconsider the contents of your will regularly to make sure that it still reflects your wishes.

How do I amend my will?

A codicil is an addition to a will that states any changes you wish to make, and is easily made by a solicitor. Adding a codicil to your existing will may be a simple way for you to leave a legacy to Shelter Scotland.

However, if you are making significant changes, it is advisable to make a new will. The new will should start with a clause stating that it revokes all previous wills and codicils.

If you're updating an existing will, you can download a sample Codicil form.

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