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Writing a Will: your guide to using Cancer Research UK’s Free Will Service

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Do you have a Will? It’s one of the most important documents that you will own, and ensures your assets and possessions will be divided as you wish after your death. So how do you go about writing a Will, and can you change it if needed? Here’s what you need to know about making a legal Will, including how to make the process simpler.

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It’s often important to plan ahead in life, and this also includes outlining your wishes for after death. Writing a Will is essential in making sure your loved ones and the organisations that matter to you are taken care of. Whatever your age or health, having one is the only way to make sure your money, property, possessions and investments (collectively known as your estate) go to where you truly want them to.

If you’re currently looking into writing your Will, here’s a complete guide to help you make a legal Will with guidance from Cancer Research UK.  

What is a Will? | How to write a Will | Writing your Will | Who to leave assets to | How to update your Will 

What is a Will, and why do you need one? 

Simply put, a Will is a legal document that outlines how a person’s assets and property will be distributed after their death. Having a Will ensures that your wishes are followed, helps to avoid disputes among beneficiaries, and makes the probate process smoother for your loved ones. Having a Will is also important for protecting your assets and providing for your family.

If you already have a Will, it’s worth double checking that it’s all up to date, to make sure any changes in your circumstances or priorities are accounted for.

If you don’t have a Will in place when you die, this is known as ‘intestate’. The rules on where your assets go in this circumstance may not reflect your wishes, so many people take comfort in making a legally valid Will before their death to help give them peace of mind.

How to write a Will

Now you know why you need a Will, it’s time to put pen to paper - or fingers to keyboards - and start making it. To help, Cancer Research UK offers a Free Will Service via trusted partners to anyone over the age of 18 years old. With their service, you can write or update a simple Will for free with the help of their best-in-class solicitors and Will-writing providers locally, online or over the phone.

Before you get started using the Free Will Service, here are eight things you’ll need to think about and prepare before you make your Will:

  1. Personal information: You will need to provide your full name, date of birth, current address, relationship status and names and dates of birth of any children you have.
  2. Your Estate: All the money, property and possessions you own, including insurances, savings, and even things like jewellery. It’s also important to include any debts you have, so the net value can be calculated.
  3. Your beneficiaries: The people you want to receive your Estate when you die. You can leave this to people or organisations, for example a charity.
  4. Your executors: Who will carry out your Will when you die.
  5. Legal guardians for children (if you have children under 18): You’ll need to name someone who’ll be legally responsible for these children.
  6. Your Trustees: The people who you want to manage any trusts you leave behind. A ‘trust’ is where someone holds an asset for the benefit of someone else.
  7. Other wishes: You can specify in your Will if you have any specific funeral arrangements, and you can also leave a ‘Letter of Wishes’, a document explaining your motivations behind the decisions you have made in your Will.
  8. Charity details: If you’d like to pledge a gift in Will, it would be helpful to also include your chosen charity’s details. 

Writing your Will

Man reading CRUK guide

Now you have all the information you need, and have made the key decisions about your wishes, it’s time to make your Will. It’s essential that you make sure it’s legally valid too - the government has a helpful list here of the requirements for this.

While you can opt for a solicitor to write your Will, or attempt to write it yourself, it’s best to consult legal experts who can help you draft it.

Charities like Cancer Research UK partner with best in class Will-writing providers through their Free Will Service, that can guide you through the process of writing your Will. With advice available online and over the phone (as well as with local solicitors) you can get started from the comfort of your own home.

Deciding who to leave assets to

Making the decision about who gets what in your Will might be one of the most important choices you make when writing or updating one. As well as leaving assets to friends and family, many people also leave a gift in their Will to a charity they care about. This is also known as pledging a ‘legacy gift’.

When creating your Will, remember you can split your assets between different people and organisations if you’re wanting to leave assets to more than one beneficiary.

Here are some of the beneficiary options you might want to consider:

  • Family - It goes without saying that a lot of people will want to include family, including partners, children and grandchildren in their Will.
  • Friends - Not as obvious a choice as family, but you may wish to leave something in your Will to a friend.
  • Organisations - You can choose to leave a gift to a charity to help fund their essential work. Pledging a gift to a charity is an invaluable gift to organisations like Cancer Research UK - a third of their research is funded by gifts in Wills. With a legacy gift like this you’re also gifting future generations as every penny counts to work towards beating cancer.

Cancer Research UK also offer a free, informational, Gifts in Wills Guide which has more advice to support you in writing a Will. Order your free guide here for more information on the different types of gifts you can leave, as well as what your money will be funding.

How to update your Will

Gift in Wills guide

Checking your Will is up to date is essential. Cancer Research UK recommends reviewing it every five years, or whenever your circumstances change so you know that your wishes will be respected once you have died.

If you want to make any big changes to your Will due to a change in circumstances, for example if you have a new grandchild, someone named as a beneficiary previously has died, or you’ve got married, you may want to cancel your existing Will and start from scratch, but you should seek legal advice on this. Using Cancer Research UK’s Free Will Service can help you with this. For smaller changes, you can add a supplement, but this must be legally valid and signed.

If you’re unsure, it’s always best to get legal advice to ensure your Will and any changes are legally valid. 

About Cancer Research UK

It’s been over two decades since Cancer Research UK was formed, and 120 years since the founding of its predecessor, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.

Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of some of the biggest developments in cancer, including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and some of the top cancer drugs used around the world today.

Just as past discoveries have laid the groundwork for successful prevention, diagnosis and treatment today, the research that Cancer Research UK funds and the breakthroughs they make today, tomorrow, and in the years to come will be at the heart of progress that saves and improves lives for generations to come. Cancer Research UK wants to accelerate progress and see 3 in 4 people surviving their cancer by 2034.

Cancer Research UK has come so far in the past 120 years. And with the help of gifts in Wills, they will go much further.

Cancer Research UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1089464), Scotland (SC041666), the Isle of Man (1103) and Jersey (247).


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