Leaving a will usually provides peace of mind for both the testator (the person who makes a will) and their loved ones. You can rest easy, safe in the knowledge that your wishes are set out in writing and your family has the benefit of clarity in regard to important decisions.
Things are more difficult for the family if the will cannot be found or if one is not up to date, potentially leaving someone important uncatered for.
Catherine Causey, Head of Private Client Law at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot, explains your options if you cannot locate a loved one’s will, and the steps you can take to ensure your own will is easy to locate and up to date.
When someone passes away and you think they have left a will it is important to try and find it as soon as possible to identify who has been appointed as an executor to deal with the administration of their estate; and who the estate has been left to.
Go through any paperwork at their home to see if there is a copy or information about where the original is stored. Contact any solicitors or banks they dealt with to see if they have the will. If they do, and you have been named as an executor, you can collect the will if you provide a copy of the death certificate and proof of your identification.
If the will cannot be found, ask the London Principle Probate Registry if they are storing it at their wills storage facility, or check the Certainty National Wills Register, which allows you to search for both registered and unregistered wills. There are no client confidentiality issues since only the location of the will is registered and the existence of a will remains confidential until proof of death.
If you cannot find the original will but have located a copy, you can send this to the Probate Registry with an application for a Grant of Probate. You should send this application with a sworn statement that the original cannot be unearthed and outline the attempts made to find it.
If the original will or a copy cannot be found, strict legal rules of intestacy will apply and the deceased’s estate will be distributed to the close family members as determined by these rules.
To save loved ones the hassle of having to hunt for a will, you should ensure you have told them where you store your will and keep details of its whereabouts stored with your important papers.
How a solicitor can help
For added piece of mind, it is a good idea to have your will drawn up professionally by a solicitor. Our highly experienced private client solicitors can store your will for a one of small charge and all wills written at WBW Solicitors are registered with Certainty.
In addition, our solicitors will ask the right questions to ensure your wishes are accurately documented. We ensure that all the formalities required for a will to be valid under the Wills Act 1837 are observed, and we keep notes of your instructions and discussions, which can help to fend off any future inheritance disagreements.
It is important to remember that if there are any changes in your circumstances – such as divorce or the birth of a new family member, you may need to amend your will or have a new one drawn up. It is highly recommended that you review your will every five years to ensure that it is up-to-date. Again, WBW Solicitors can help you with any amendments or revisions you require.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.