It is just as important to store your Will safely as it is to make it. If a Will is lost then your estate could pass in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy, which means your loved ones could miss out on their inheritance.
When someone dies, their personal representative has the task of winding up their affairs and distributing the estate to their beneficiaries.
If their Will is missing or no-one knows where it has been stored, then it can make the representative’s job more difficult. A previous Will might end up being used instead, or the estate administered as if no Will exists.
The Rules of Intestacy (the Rules)
The Rules apply to estates where no Will has been left and leave money to the deceased’s next of kin in strict order of preference, prioritising any spouse that may exist. This may mean for example that the deceased’s children receive substantially less than was intended. Under the Rules, cohabitees and step-children do not inherit anything.
What you can do with your Will once you have signed it
Once your Will has been properly signed, dated and witnessed, you have a number of options for storage.
Store it yourself
You could simply keep it at home, but generally, this is the least secure option. It can easily become lost, damaged or destroyed.
Register it with the Probate Service
The government has a Wills storage service. For a small fee, you can store your Will with HM Courts & Tribunals Service.
Keep it at your solicitor’s office
The solicitor who prepares your Will may offer a storage option. Your Will would be registered into their storage system and kept in a secure room. You will be provided with a receipt which you can keep with your important paperwork so that when the time comes, your loved ones know where to find the original document.
Solicitors are governed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and you can expect a high level of service backed by professional indemnity insurance so that if anything did happen to your Will, your estate could be compensated.
In the event that a firm of solicitors closes, there is a system in place for transferring the Wills it holds to another regulated firm, with records made with the SRA to this effect.
Registering your Will
You can also choose to register your Will and details of its location with Certainty, the National Will Register, the Law Society’s endorsed choice of Wills register. If a Will is missing after a death, the executor will usually make searches of registers such as this to try and locate it.
A Will should not be stored in a bank safety deposit box, because this cannot be opened until probate has been granted, for which the original Will is necessary.
By using your own solicitor to store your Will, keeping the receipt with your papers and registering it, your executors should be able to locate it without difficulty when the time comes.
If you would like to speak to one of our expert Wills lawyers, ring us on 01634 353 658
or email us at [email protected].