Can I write my own will?

Should you write your own will and why it is not always a good idea

Woman writing her own will
(Image credit: Getty images)

Wills are legal documents and while there’s no law that prevents you from writing your own will, it must be done correctly as mistakes can be costly and in the worst case may mean your home made will is invalid.

Writing your own will can seem a cheap and easy way to get the job done and save you some money - but is it really ever a good idea?

We explain what you need to know about homemade wills. 

How much does a will cost?

It’s not cheap to have your will made using a solicitor - as a rough guide you can expect to pay around £144 - £600 (opens in new tab) depending on the complexity of your financial and family circumstances and the level of advice and tax planning you need.

Faced with these costs you may think you’re saving yourself money by making your own will especially as you can pick up ‘DIY’ will kits online from places like Amazon for under £10 (opens in new tab).  

But while you may get the necessary forms - you won’t get any help or advice – other than a printed booklet - and the paperwork can be complicated - there’s always the risk you could inadvertently make mistakes.

Is it a good idea to write your own will?

Experts argue that writing your own will could leave you at risk of having an invalid will if you do not know what you are doing. 

“It’s rarely a good idea to write your own will,” warns Sean McCann, chartered financial planner at NFU Mutual (opens in new tab).

“Taking legal advice will ensure that all the legal requirements are met to ensure your will is valid and your wishes are carried out”.

If you decide to make your own, even “failing to have it properly witnessed can mean it is more open to challenge or even declared invalid.” 

What should you be aware of when writing your own will?

You may know exactly how you want to share out your money and property and who you want to leave it to, but depending on how much you’re worth, you could saddle your family with a potential inheritance tax bill simply because you’re not clued up about the inheritance tax rules when writing your will.  

When it comes to the detail of writing your own will - as wills are legal documents they must be signed and witnessed correctly to make them valid. 

This means you will need two independent witnesses – and the hugely crucial point is that the two people you ask to be witnesses can’t be beneficiaries of your will – something that can be easy to overlook if you’re not versed in legal procedures and taking the DIY route. 

Even with the most simple will – say you’re married and want to leave everything to your spouse – you’ll still need to think about who you want to appoint as your executor, as this is the person, or people, who carry out your last wishes.

Using a solicitor (opens in new tab) to write your will means it will be done professionally and legally and you can find contact details for local solicitors across England and Wales through the Law Society (opens in new tab).

“As well as drafting your will, a solicitor can provide advice on the options open to you which you may not have considered, such as setting up trusts within your will to protect family wealth or making provision for vulnerable beneficiaries”, says Sean McCann.

Using a will writing service - either face to face or online - can often be cheaper than using a solicitor. However these services are generally not regulated and not all will writers are legally qualified (opens in new tab) although if they belong to a recognised organisation they will be trained in wills and estate planning. 

If you decide to use a will writing service – check if they belong to an organisation like the Society of Will Writers (opens in new tab) or Institute of Professional Willwriters (opens in new tab)

“The more complex your circumstances - the more important it is to take legal advice”, says McCann. “While an online service may save you money up front it may be more expensive for your family in the long run.”

Sue Hayward

Sue Hayward is a personal finance and consumer journalist, broadcaster and author who regularly chats on TV and Radio on ways to get more power for your pound.  Sue’s written for a wide range of publications including the Guardian, i Paper, Good Housekeeping, Lovemoney and My Weekly. Cats, cheese and travel are Sue’s passions away from her desk!