If you make a Will, you should ensure that your loved ones know where it is being stored. Otherwise, there is a risk that they won’t know whether you had a valid Will in place or where it is located.
When you have a Will professionally drafted, your lawyer is likely to be willing to store the document for safekeeping for you. You will be given a receipt with their details on it, which you should keep with your important papers. If you store your Will with us we will provide you with executor cards to pass on to your executors so they know where to find your Will when needed.
When a Will can’t be located, you should first search the deceased’s property and go through their paperwork. Even if you don’t find the Will itself, you may find some information about their lawyers, a receipt for the Will or even a copy of the document.
It is possible that the firm of lawyers that originally held the Will no longer exists, if the company was a firm of solicitors, you can contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority Intervention Archives department who store all documents held by firms which they close down.
The London Principal Probate Registry also store Wills that can no longer be held by the original law firm involved.
Finally, a firm called Certainty have a register of a certain number of Wills and will search that for you for a fee.
If you are acting as executor or administrator, it is important that you make an attempt to find a valid Will. By undertaking these searches, you will be able to show that you did everything reasonable to locate any Will, which could be important if potential beneficiaries raise any queries about your actions.
It may be that a signed copy of the Will is found. Application for grant of probate can be made to the Probate Registry using the copy, but it will need to be accompanied by a sworn affidavit detailing the attempts you have made to locate the original.
You will also need to explain the circumstances under which the Will has been lost and also provide information regarding anyone who would inherit under the rules of intestacy but not under the terms of the copy Will.
If neither the original Will nor a copy can be located then it will be necessary to proceed with administration of the estate under the rules of intestacy. These provide a strict order in which close relatives of the deceased will inherit, starting with any spouse, who will be entitled to the majority of the estate, and followed by any children.
If you would like to speak to one of our expert Will writers, contact us on 01276 415835/6/7.