Dealing with the administration of someone’s estate can be easier if they have left a Will. It can also help avoid disagreements between family members. But it is not always easy to find important documents after a death.
If a loved one has died and you believe they may have left a Will, it is important to make every effort to locate it. This is the document which will name the people they wish to deal with the administration of their estate and act as trustees if required. It will also list those to whom the estate has been left and may even include the deceased’s funeral wishes.
Finding a Will after death
The most obvious place to look is the deceased’s home. Even if the original Will isn’t there, there may be a copy together with information about where the original is being stored.
Go through any paperwork you can find and make a note of any law firm or bank that the deceased has had dealings with.
Write to those organisations and ask if they have the Will. If they do, and you have been named as an Executor, then you have the right to collect the Will. You would need to provide a copy of the death certificate together with proof of your identification.
If the Will cannot be located, try asking the London Principle Probate Registry if they are storing it, as they are a Wills storage facility. You can also make enquiries of the National Wills Register, which may have details of the document.
When the Will can’t be located
If you have found a copy of the signed Will, but not the original, this can be sent to the Probate Registry with an application for a Grant of Probate. You will also need to send a sworn document stating that the original cannot be found and giving details of the attempts made to locate it.
The Registry may wish to hear from any potential beneficiaries who would not inherit under the terms of the copy Will.
If neither the Will nor a copy can be found, then the Rules of Intestacy will apply and the estate will be distributed to the close family members listed in the Rules.
How to store a Will so that it can be found
To avoid complications in estate administration, it is a good idea to ensure that your loved ones know where your Will is stored. If you have the document drafted professionally, your solicitor will also keep their notes of your instructions and discussions with them, which can be useful in the event of any future disagreement over inheritance.
You should also keep details of your Will’s whereabouts stored with your important papers so that anyone searching for the document will easily be able to locate it.
If you would like to speak to one of our Wills and Probate experts, ring us on 01634 353 658 or email us at [email protected].