Finding a person’s Will can be tricky. It may surprise you to find out that there is no compulsory Will Register in the UK. If you believe your loved one signed a Will, but it cannot be found, you will need to strategically follow up all lines of enquiry and search for the Will to make sure their wishes are not overlooked.
In this blog, we explain where to look for the Will, why it is important and what to do if it cannot be found.
Why is it so important to find the Will?
Finding a person’s Will is essential because it confirms who inherits the estate and who is responsible for dealing with administration. If a complete Will search is not undertaken, the estate is at risk of being incorrectly distributed.
Similarly, you will need the Original Will to apply for the Grant of Probate for the estate. Remember the Grant is a Court Order which confirms who has the authority to deal with the deceased’s assets. It is the proof the executors need to close the deceased’s accounts as well as transfer and sell property, shares and other assets.
Where to look for a Will?
1. Search the Deceased’s Home
The best place to look for a Will is in the deceased’s home. If there is a Will, there will usually be a copy amongst their possessions. They may have even purchased a safe or fireproof box to keep the Will in.
While searching for the Will, you can also collect the deceased’s papers ready for probate. As part of the probate application, you will need to identify and value the assets and liabilities of the person who has died. For more information about our probate support services, click here.
2. Ask family and friends
The deceased may have told family and friends where they stored their Will. A quick conversation may give you a lead on the location of the Will.
3. Contact the deceased’s solicitor
If the deceased used a solicitor or other professional to write their Will, they may still be storing the Will for them. To search their archive, a solicitor will normally need the deceased’s full name and their address (or the address likely to have been used when they made the Will). If you are not sure which solicitor was used, get in contact with those local to the deceased as a starting point.
If the deceased’s used several different solicitors during their lifetime, it is worth making multiple enquiries to see if any of them are holding a Will.
If you are named as an executor, your will need to provide the solicitor with a copy of the death certificate and proof of your identity to secure the release of the document.
4. Contact other professional advisers linked to the deceased
If the deceased engaged other professionals such as accountants, tax advisers or financial advisers, they may also know the whereabouts of the Will.
5. Check with the deceased’s bank
While this service is becoming more rare, banks and building society sometimes agree to store original documents, such as Wills and Property Deeds for customers.
6. Check the Will archives of the Principal Registry of the Family Division
The deceased may have opted to store their Will with the Principal Probate Registry in London (part of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service). If you have found a Certificate of Deposit amongst the person’s possessions, then you can use the Form PA7A to withdraw the Will. For further information, you can contact the London Probate Registry directly.
7. Pay for a Will search
There are companies that can help you search for the Will with Solicitors, Will writers and on commercial Will registers for a fee. The Law Society’s has advocated “Certainty” as its preferred commercial Will search service.
I have found the Will, what do I do next?
1. Checking that the Will is Valid
Once you have located the Will, you will need to check that it is valid.
- Has the deceased signed the Will?
- Has the Will been signed in the presence of two witnesses?
- Are there any handwritten amendments on the Will?
- Does the Will deal with the entire estate?
- Are there any pages missing?
If you have any concerns, seek professional advice.
2. Moving on with the Estate Administration
If a valid Will is found, the executors can get started on the estate administration.
Common tasks include notifying third parties of the death, locating and verifying the deceased’s assets, applying for probate, collecting in the deceased’s assets and paying off any debts, administration expenses and any tax due before distributing what remains in accordance with the terms of the Will.
What happens if you still cannot find the Will?
If you have carried out a comprehensive search and are still not able locate a Will, the estate will need to be administered under the assumption that the deceased died without a Will. In these circumstances, the rules of intestacy will govern who should administer the estate and how the deceased’s assets are divided.
TOP TIP- How to help your executors find your Will
To avoid your family being unable to find your Will, it is important to discuss your Will’s whereabouts with your executors. Let them know that they are appointed as executors, what the role involves and where they need to look first. This ensures there will be no delay in carrying out your wishes.
As a further safeguard, we recommend that all of our clients keep an Asset List amongst their personal possessions which further confirms the Will’s location in writing.
If you need further help?
If you are looking for a Will without success, book at Probate Strategy Session with our probate solicitors who can offer support and guidance on your next steps.