AWARENESS around the need for people to make a will is on the rise, but so too is the use of DIY wills.

This probably explains why there has been an increase in the number of will disputes during the past year.

Around 60 per cent of the adult UK population does not have a will at all.

This means when they die, they will die ‘intestate’, leaving ancient laws to determine who gets what.

You can be as young as 18 and there is no upper age limit to making a will, provided you are mentally capable of understanding what you are doing and the implications of signing your will.

It’s easy for couples to assume their partner will inherit everything if they die, but if you are not married or in a civil partnership, your assets will pass automatically to your nearest living blood relative.

One of the most important decisions to make is who you trust to distribute your estate.

This could be a close relative, close friend or a professional, such as a solicitor.

The role of executor is crucial to ensuring your wishes are followed.

Sometimes appointing a loved one to the role can lead to disputes as they may be both executor and beneficiary.

By appointing a solicitor, the conflict of interest is removed.

You should consider the following when making your will:

  • Care arrangements and appointing a guardian to look after children under 18
  • Who you wish to benefit from your will, specifying who receives which assets
  • Instructions and wishes regarding your funeral
  • Specific instructions for any pets you may have

For married couples and civil partners, you may not be aware that if there is no valid will, your spouse/civil partner may not receive everything.

Your spouse/civil partner will receive all personal possessions and up to the first £250,000.

Anything above this amount is divided in two, with half going to any surviving children (at the age of 18) and half to the surviving spouse/civil partner.

For legal advice about making a will, contact Kayley Williams at Harding Evans Solicitors on 01633 244233.

This Legal Expert column is produced in conjunction with the Law Society.