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How to make a Will

In Northern Ireland anyone aged over 18 years and of sound mind, memory and understanding can make a Will.

What are the advantages of having a Will?

There are many reasons why a Will should be seen as a necessity. Making a Will allows you to do the following:

  • Ability to nominate who is responsible for distributing your estate (‘executors’) and who is to share it (‘beneficiaries’)
  • If you have children under 18 years, you can nominate guardians to look after them
  • Nominating trustees to look after any share of your estate on behalf of your children until they reach maturity
  • Making a gift to charity
  • Gifting specific items (jewellery, antique collections, vintage cars etc.)
  • Help limit exposure to potential Inheritance tax liabilities
  • Assisting with defeating a claim made by a dependent whom you do not wish to provide for.

What happens if you die without a Will?

Your estate is administered according to intestacy rules, which means your estate may not go to the person(s) that you intended. This is especially true for those:

  • Not married but cohabiting together;
  • Still Married but separated
  • With children from previous relationships
  • Who have remarried.

Not having a Will also means there is no-one automatically nominated to distribute your estate. This can delay administration and add costs. This can also increase the chances of challenges being successfully made to your estate.

How do you draft a Will?

Certain formalities should be followed otherwise this risks the Will being invalid. The Will must be in writing; be signed by the person making it and witnessed by two independent persons at the same time. While an executor can also be a beneficiary, neither they (or their partner) should be a witness.    

Anyone can prepare a Will but suspicion is likely to be caused if the person who prepares it is a beneficiary or is related to a beneficiary.

It is preferable for a solicitor to draft the Will – not just to ensure that the contents meet with the maker’s wishes but also to protect against any claims of undue influence or invalidity.

I already have a Will. Do I need to do anything else?

Yes.  Although a Will is a crucial part of estate planning, certain property does not pass under a Will.  The most important being joint assets (including but not limited to houses), life insurance policies and pension funds. You must make separate provision for those assets.

It can also be prudent to have a ‘letter of wishes’ sitting alongside your Will which documents practical information to the executors or trustees. Digital assets (online accounts; photographs; social media etc.) should not be forgotten about and you may have specific wishes as to what you want to happen to any such accounts.

If the Will maker does not wish to leave a gift to an individual who they suspect may make a claim on the estate, a written note explaining why that person has been omitted can be used as evidence.

An updated schedule of assets is very useful. A simple schedule can make it much easier for the executors to identify, protect and preserve the estate more quickly and inexpensively. 

Finally, any existing Will should be keep under constant review to ensure it continues to meet your requirements. Significant changes to your personal life (including but not limited to having children, getting married or divorced) or financial circumstances always merit a review of your Will.

Contact Thompsons NI

If you require advice on Wills, please contact Thompsons NI on 0800 138 6880. Alternatively, download our Wills questionnaire and send it via email to our specialist Wills and probate solicitors at