Making a will
Anyone can make a will. You don't have to make a will, but experts may advise you to do so.
By making a will you will be able to set out who is to benefit from your property and possessions ('your estate') after your death. It will also help make sure that your estate, after any taxes and debts have been paid, is passed on as you want. You may need legal advice if you want your share of any jointly-owned assets to be inherited by someone who is not the other joint owner.
You can choose the people who are responsible for passing on your estate. These people are called executors, and you can appoint executors by naming them in your will. The courts can also appoint other people to be responsible for doing this job.
If you do not make a will, your estate will be passed on according to a scheme laid down in law. Who is entitled under this scheme (which is designed to reflect the wishes of the average person) will depend on which relatives survive you, if any.
If you are thinking of making a will, you may want to get the help of a lawyer or a voluntary organisation such as Citizens Advice or Age Concern. For more information, you can visit the Citizens Advice website or the Age Concern website.
If you live in Scotland
If you live in Scotland, you can phone the Scottish Executive Civil Law Division on 0131 244 2193 for the leaflet Rights of Succession. This explains what happens if someone has died without making a will. If you are thinking of making a will, you may want to ask for the help of a lawyer or a voluntary organisation such as Citizens Advice or Help the Aged. You should check that any will-making service makes Scottish wills for people living in Scotland.
What to do After a Death in Scotland is another Scottish Executive leaflet that you may find helpful if someone close to you dies. You can phone the Scottish Executive on the number above for a copy. Your local Citizens Advice bureau may be able to give you a copy.