When someone has died and their Will can’t be located, although you are certain there is one, there are several courses of action you can take to try and locate it.
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 solicitor 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.
Searching for a lost Will
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 solicitor, a receipt for the Will or even a copy of the document.
It is possible that the firm of solicitors that originally held the Will no longer exists, in which case 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.
Using a copy of the Will
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.
When the Will can’t be found
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.