Lost the will, find a way!
31 Aug 2022
It is very easy to misplace a document, not least something as important as a will. If you are dealing with the affairs of someone who has passed away, you will naturally be concerned to look for the will to understand what that person’s last wishes were.
Here is some general guidance on what you can do.
Where can I find the will?
No doubt you have already made a thorough search through the deceased’s belongings and spoken to close friends and family.
Additional places to look may include:
1. Solicitors’ office – Many solicitors or will writers offer a storage facility to securely retain the wills they have prepared. If you have a copy of the deceased’s will, but do not hold the original, chances are this is where it may be. Often the solicitor’s contact details are included on the cover page of the will.
If the solicitor’s firm no longer exists, try contacting the Solicitors Regulation Authority, who should be able to tell you if the firm was taken over by another practice and who to contact to access documents.
2. Bank – Some time ago, people often stored their important documents, such as title deeds and their will with their bank’s safe deposit facilities. It is uncommon nowadays as many banks have withdrawn this facility but worth a try.
3. Probate Registry – Unknown to most, the Probate Registry offer a storage facility for wills in exchange for a one off fee (currently £20).
4. Court of Protection (‘COP’) – If the deceased had lost capacity prior to them passing away, the original will may be with the COP.
Is there a Wills Registry?
Contrary to popular belief, the United Kingdom does not enjoy a central registry where wills must be deposited. Instead, there is the National Wills Register, where people have the option of registering their will.
You can search the National Wills Register by using a company called Certainty. The search will not provide details of the will (for data protection reasons) but will direct you to the practice that registered the will. This will then enable you to make further enquiries.
Certainty can also search for non-registered wills by contacting local solicitors or will writers in geographically targeted areas, such as where the deceased lived or worked, to see if they may be holding the will.
What if we have a copy of the will but not the original?
If the original Will cannot be located, but you have managed to find a copy, then you can make a special application to the Probate Registry to apply for probate with a copy of the will. There is a legal assumption that a lost will has been revoked. The person applying must provide evidence to rebut this assumption and explain why only a copy is available. Harold Benjamin would be more than happy to guide you through this process.
What if we do not even have a copy?
If you cannot find a copy of the will, then it must be assumed that the deceased never made a will or if they had, it has been revoked.
There are a default set of provisions, known as the intestacy rules, that apply when someone does not have a will, or one cannot be found. The rules benefit certain categories of people in a priority order. For more information, please contact a member of our team today.
Harold Benjamin understands the need to have a professionally written will that ensures your loved ones are able to benefit the way you want them to. We write bespoke wills to deal with your personal circumstances and can assist loved ones with administering an estate as and when the time comes.
For more information please contact Davina Puran, Solicitor, Wills, Probate and Estate Planning at email@example.com