How do I get a copy of a Will & testament?

How do I get a copy Last Will & testament in England or Wales?

(Looking for the Will of a person who has only recently died so probate will not yet have been granted – go here.) We can’t help directly, unless you need professional advice, but this page will help you with probate searches to obtain a copy of a Will and testament and grant of probate or Letters of Administration (no valid Will) if they have been granted in the past.  If you are looking for a Will fo r someone who has just died, go here.  Bear in mind only the executors are legally entitled to see the Will before probate is granted, so in this circumstances, you would need to ask them.  If the person has died recently see also STANDING SEARCH  &  SEARCH FOR A WILL BEING PROBATED.  

Please do NOT ring us (or any Probate Registry) about how to search for probate and get a copy Will and Grant or Letters of Administration. If there may be a dispute, that is where we can help – but you need paid professional advice! We have contacts who can help with normal probate, as well as contentious probate – where there is a dispute or uncertainty. We do NOT charge for our services, which are merely to find the basic facts then try to put you in touch with an appropriate and not too expensive lawyer.

Before reading any further, I would urge you to consider whether you own Legal Planning is adequate.   That is why the number of disputes over Wills is rising, and why Local Authorities are taking over running increasing numbers of lives. If you don’t want that to happen, you need to act!

PLEASE DO READ THIS PAGE CAREFULLY before continuing your search for probate Grants to get a copy of a Will.

The easy option is the online probate search service offered by the Government for copy Last Will and testaments and Grants of Probate. We understand that you cannot order sealed copies for formal purposes by this route – that is best done by filling in the PA1S form and posting it to them. Alternatively, order and download the Will you need, then post it to the Registry with a stamped, addressed envelope and ask for it to be sealed. We have lost count of the number of people doing it online who don’t realise they have to log back in to download the documents once they have been emailed that they are ready.

How do I get a copy Last Will & testament is a question we get every day. You can download the PA1S HERE (the link is about halfway down the page.)

While someone is alive, only they can give you a copy of a Will: no one else is normally entitled to see it or know its’ contents, though Attorneys of a Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Powers of Attorney may be entitled to view it to check that they are following the donors wishes.  On death, the executors (only) are entitled to see the Will. They may or may not chose to let others have copies.  If probate is needed and has been granted then the Will becomes a public document and anyone can obtain a copy, from the Probate Registry.

BUT only if it was necessary to obtain a grant of probate and often it is not.  In which case all you can do is ask the executors for a copy – and they may not wish to give you one as even the beneficiaries have no right to a copy Will!  This is not a satisfactory situation in my opinion.

If you want a get a copy of a Will, then the Postal Search & Copies Department is the main source.

Clearly, they cannot provide copy Wills unless probate has been granted.  Complete and send this form to obtain a copy Last Will & testament and or Grant of Probate of a deceased person to the Postal Search & Copies Department – the address is on the form (don’t send it to us please!)   You can contact the Government order line on 0300 123 1072  who will post you the form, but they won’t do any more than send it to you to complete and send to Leeds.

At the time of writing the fee for a copy Will (or Grant if there is no Will) is £1.50, and they will include a copy of the grant of probate too (only if you ask for it – do.)  The Grant document will show you who dealt with the Probate.  Not all probate records contain a will. Check the type of grant of representation when you search. The grant types that contain a will include:

  • ‘Probate’ or ‘Grant and Will’
  • ‘Admon with Will’ or ‘Grant and Will’
  • ‘Administration (Admon) or Grant’ does not contain a will.

Rather than fill in the form, you can write and give Postal Search & Copies Department  as much information as you possibly can: the full name, last known address and date of death of the person concerned if known.  But we would strongly urge you to fill in the form to avoid omitting required information and reducing the chances of a successful probate search.

Please read their instructions which are reproduced at the foot of the page. But the form makes sure you don’t miss anything: send the form or letter and payment to:

The Postal Searches and Copies Department is at York House York Place Leeds LS1 2BA.
You CANNOT phone them.

A probate search can normally be made using less detail, but if the date of death is not known, you must state the year from which you want the search to be made, or give some other evidence that might indicate when the person died.   If you have information about legal actions related to Probate or the disposition of assets, include that on your application.

Many people find it convenient to order copies in this way even if they have already made a search of the Probate indexes and located a record relating to the subject of their research, but if this is the case, please include the grant type, issuing Registry and grant issue date on your application, as well as the Folio number if applicable as this can speed up the supply of copies considerably.

The fee should be payable to “HMCTS”, and if it is paid from abroad, must be made by bank draft, payable through a United Kingdom bank and made out in £ sterling. If you are applying for a search as well, you can request a search of any length, and fees for this are £4 per 4 year period. At the time of writing, they will not accept payment by bank transfer.

The records referred to here relate only to estates in England and Wales.

Please note that, since the Postal Search & Copies Department serves as a national centre for postal requests for searches and copies, it is not possible to inspect the Probate indexes in person there. In theory the page linked shortly lists Registries where you can make an appointment to search the indexes in person, but I suspect it is incorrect.

The Service has undergone a process of computerisation, but as yet this covers only recently issued grants, which will be of limited interest to genealogists wishing to search probates on a wider basis. However, anyone who is interested in checking up on grants since 1858 can (in normal times) search the Probate Service database themselves at the Principal Probate Registry in London. The Postal Searches and Copies Department at York is also completing a long period of computerisation, which should see a much-improved service to family history researchers, with clearer and more comprehensive information and quicker supply of documents.

Instructions: how to get a copy of a Will & associated Grant.

This is what the PA1S says about the extra services available:

“Postal Searches and Copies Department: Information and Conditions of Service

Applicable dates and records held: The Postal Searches and Copies Department has access to indexes relating to all Probate records for the whole of England and Wales from 11 January 1858 up to the present day. You may apply for a copy of any proved Will, as well as a copy of the Grant of Representation.

The Grant will tell you who were the Executors or Administrators (those appointed to gather in and distribute the estate). It may also tell you the name of the Solicitor acting for them (if any) and the value of the estate, although usually only in very broad terms.

The financial summary shown on the Grant is the only information relating to the estate that the Probate record contains. No inventory or estate accounts are available. Occasionally, further details are available from the Capital Taxes Office, but you will normally need the written consent of the executors or administrators.

Please note that, if Probate has not been granted, the Probate Service will have no record of the estate and will therefore not be able to provide copies of any document relating to it.

Please also note that sealed copies are only available to executors/administrators of an estate.  If the death was recent, it may be that Probate has not yet been cleared. Consequently, it may be advisable to wait two or three months after the date of death before having a search made, in order to allow time for the Probate process to be completed.

If you apply before Probate has been completed, you will be notified that no details are available. If you wish to pursue your enquiry, you will need to reapply after a suitable interval, enclosing a further fee and resubmitting all the relevant details, or enter a Standing Search. A Standing Search remains in force for a period of 6 months from the date of entry and provides copies of the Will (if any) and Grant if a Grant issues during this period. Contact any Probate Registry for further details.”
Queries: If you have a query about an application you have submitted, please write to The Postal Searches and Copies Department,  York House, York Place, Leeds LS1 2BA.

It is not possible to telephone the Postal Searches and Copies Department and no other Probate Registry can answer queries about searches sent to that address.

Fees: When returning the completed application to the Postal Searches and Copies Department in Leeds, please also enclose the fee of £10.00. Each extra copy of the same document ordered at the same time will attract an additional fee of £1.50 each of grant and will. Cheques or Postal Orders should be crossed and made payable to ‘HM Courts & Tribunals Service’.

Fees from abroad should be paid by International Money Order, cheque or draft, payable through a United Kingdom bank, and must be made out in £ sterling. We are currently unable to accept payments by credit or debit card, nor are we able to receive search requests by telephone. Please contact any Probate Registry for details of fees for special copies (for instance if you are administering estate abroad), and mark your application accordingly.

The standard fee covers a 4-year search starting from the year in which the death occurred (or the year from which you ask us to start searching). Longer searches are charged at a rate of £4.00 per 4-year period, so that an 8-year search will cost £10.00, and a 12-year search £14.00 (£12 I suspect). Please specify the period to be searched (as well as the date of death if known) and send the appropriate fee. If the death occurred within the last 4 years, the search will be made up to the most recent index. If the search is successful, we will obtain and forward copies of the Will and/or Grant as requested. If no Grant has issued in this time, you will be notified accordingly.

We aim to respond to your request within 21 working days.

If a record is traced, the standard fee includes one copy of the Will, if any, and Grant, if requested. If the details you supply are incomplete, ambiguous or incorrect and the documents cannot be traced as a result, you will be asked to reapply, giving the correct information and enclosing a further payment. We cannot accept responsibility for the
accuracy of the search unless full and correct details are given that accord with the information supplied on application for the Grant, normally the information in the Register of Deaths. If there is insufficient information to make a search, we will contact you for further details. Please note that your payment is not refundable in the event of a negative search result.

Copies or results of a negative search will be sent from the Probate Records Centre where our records are stored.

Original documents: If you are applying for copies of older documents, you should be aware that some of these are in poor condition. Although we make every effort to produce a legible copy from the documents we hold, a small proportion will be of unavoidable poor quality.

                                                                                                                                              Considering a Deed of Variation?

 

What information do you need to get a Copy Will or Grant?

Full name and any other names (if someone remarried they may be much harder to find if you don’t know the married name).  Date of death, address and postcode, if it is needed to administer the estate in the UK or if abroad, which countries.   Sealed copies will be provided if you use the ps#ostal route and the PA1S and are administering the estate.  If ordered online, you will need to follow the procedure below.

If you are uncertain of the details, searching online is the best route, but start in the year of death, especially if they died early in the year, then look through the next copule of years.  Normally, that will be enough, as long as probate was actually required.

(Free Guide to what to do on death by The Probate Department Ltd which is NOT the Probate Registry nor part of HMCTS.)

Applying for copy Will or Grant Before Probate has been Granted.

If you apply before Probate has been completed, you will be notified that no details are available. If you wish to pursue your enquiry, you will need to reapply after a suitable interval, enclosing a further fee and resubmitting all the relevant details, or enter a Standing Search. A Standing Search remains in force for a period of 6 months from the date of entry and provides copies of the Will (if any) and Grant if a Grant issues during this period.  Cost as at February 2022 is £3 per 6 months – ideally use the PA1S form.  You will need to renew before the 6 months runs out to avoid gaps.   Copies are not “sealed” and if that is required, you will need to send a copy by post with a stamped addressed envelope, to Leeds and ask for a sealed copy.

Queries: If you have a query about an application you have submitted, please write to The Postal Searches and Copies Department, Leeds District Probate Registry, York House, York Place, Leeds LS1 2BA. It is not possible to telephone the Postal Searches and Copies Department and no other Probate Registry can answer queries about searches sent to that address.

Copies or results of a negative search will be sent from the Probate Records Centre where our records are stored.

Original documents: If you are applying for copies of older documents, you should be aware that some of these are in poor condition. Although we make every effort to produce a legible copy from the documents we hold, a small proportion will be of unavoidable poor quality.

The jurisdiction of the Probate Service is limited to England and Wales.

How to apply for a Copy Will or Grant of Probate in other parts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

(as we don’t serve these areas, please check that the details are up to date.)

If the deceased died domiciled in Scotland, you could try contacting HM Commissary Office, 27 Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 2NS (Tel: 0131 247 2850) if the death occurred after 1985, or the Scottish Records Office, HM General Register House, Edinburgh EH1 3YY (Tel: 0131 535 1334) for records before this.

For Northern Ireland, contact the Probate and Matrimonial Office, The Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast BT1 3JF (Tel: 028 9023 5111), or, if the death occurred more than 7 years ago, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 66 Balmoral Street, Belfast, BT9 6NY (Tel: 028 9025 1318).

For the Republic of Ireland, contact the Probate Office, Fourt Courts, Dublin 7 (Tel: Dublin 725555), or the National Archives Office, Bishop Street, Dublin 8 (Tel: Dublin 407 2300) for records more than 20 years old. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man also have independent Probate Courts.

How do I get a copy of a Will?

 

 

 

 

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