If a Grant of Probate is obtained, then a Will becomes a public document and anyone can apply to the Probate Registry for a copy.
In some cases, where an estate is small, a Grant of Probate is not needed. It is part of the job of the Executor to work out whether Probate is required. If it is, the Executor will need to apply to the Probate Registry by sending the original Will together with the forms and fee they require.
Applying for a Grant of Probate
One of the first jobs of the Executor is to value the estate and work out whether Probate is needed and whether any Inheritance Tax (IHT) is payable.
If a Grant of Probate is required, then the Probate Registry will also need an IHT form, even if IHT is not payable.
They will file the original Will and once Probate has been granted, anyone can make an application to the Probate Registry for a copy.
Keeping information private
When having your Will drawn up, you should be aware that, one day, it will be available to view by anyone. You should, therefore, keep any sensitive or potentially inflammatory information out of the document if possible.
Any old Wills that have been superseded will not be filed and so may not be viewed.
If you want to pass on information to certain parties without making it public, you can leave a document called a Letter of Wishes alongside your Will.
You can use this to express your preference for funeral arrangements, set out a list of who to tell about your death, give guidance to your children’s guardians if you have appointed any and to set out instructions that you would like your trustees to follow.
You can also include information which might be sensitive, such as your reasons for including or excluding someone from your Will.
A Letter of Wishes is not a legally binding document but it can be a useful way of communicating your thoughts to your loved ones. It should be signed by you and dated but not witnessed, to avoid any confusion about it being a codicil to your Will or even a new Will. It can be stored with your Will.
It is important that the Letter of Wishes does not contradict anything written in your Will. If in doubt, you should seek legal advice when drawing it up and ensure that it accords with the contents of your Will.
The person to whom a Letter of Wishes is addressed is not obliged to show it to anyone, including the Executor and beneficiaries of the Will.
If you would like to speak to one of our expert Wills and Probate lawyers, ring us on 01634 353 658 or email us at [email protected].