How to find a Last Will & Testament on death- many fail to take proper precautions.
How to Find a Will: there are lots of ways to try to find a lost or mislaid Last Will and testament document which is not where you would expect it to be. And therefore avoid having to work with the Rules of Intestacy to decide who inherits. This page is a guest page written by the folk at Will Custodian Ltd. They specialise in making sure your Last Will and Testament and other legal planning don’t get lost. They also help you keep up to date on changes in tax, the law and family circumstances. Without that knowledge, you might not realise you need advice, which is part of the package their Peace of Mind Service offers for a couple of pounds or so a month. (See also how to find a copy which has been through Probate and Disputing one on the relevant pages).
Will Custodians Guide: How to find a Will:
- Where you are unable to find the original, it may be possible to use a copy to get probate, but only if it is provable to the Registrars satisfaction that it was current and had not been deliberately destroyed. Not easy, but the person who wrote it normally has a copy if you can find them. But there is no guarantee that a copy may prove acceptable.
Where to Find a Lost Will:
Do bear in mind that it is a signed and witnessed original Last Will and testament you need to find, or the chances are that the estate will have to be distributed under the Rules of Intestacy.
Most people sadly store these crucial documents at home, so a meticulous search of all paperwork is needed. Where the precaution of safe storage has been taken up, most providers just send a one-page letter confirming receipt and you’ll never hear from them again. So if that letter is lost……
Under the Will Custodian system, there is a copy for the person document whose it is, plus laminated storage certificates (hard to lose!) for them AND their executors. On top of that, there is an annual newsletter and checklist sent out, and a monthly or annual direct debit. So if we are storing it, you won’t be reading this page. Is your Legal Planning secure? Look at the bank statements to see if anyone is being paid for storage, and check with the bank/s to see if there is a safe deposit box. Some people keep such vital documents at home in inexpensive home safes, but these do get very hot inside if there is a fire, so there is a danger that they could be incinerated.
Who to ask when trying to find:
We’ve tried to put this in some sort of logical order:
- Is there a regular solicitor or Will Writer they were in touch with? Look for letters or business cards. Their financial adviser may know.
- Ask the Secretary of the Local Law Society if they would kindly email their local members – they will need the full name, date of birth and addresses the person has lived at – plus any other names they may be known by (find the birth certificate – people often don’t use their legal names.)
- The Principal Probate Registry stores some: you have to write to them with an original death certificate: they don’t give information on the phone. Address: Principal Registry of the Family Division, First Avenue House, 7th Floor, 42-49 High Holborn, Holborn. London WC1V 6NP. If it is stored with them, there should be a Certificate with the relevant number on it, but it is just a flimsy piece of paper, easily lost. The PA7A is the form used to retrieve documents stored by the Principal Probate Registry.
- The Society of Will Writers stores a large number of documents for current and past members as well as for solicitors etc who have gone out of business, ask for the Custody Department (best to use their email enquiry form). If you ask, they will often circulate members in the relevant region.
- The Solicitors Regulation Authority store tens of thousands of Last Wills etc where the solicitor has gone out of business. We are told that they are very behind with cataloguing, sadly.
- Speak to friends and family.
- Check bank statements for storage or Will writing fees.
- There are a number of initiatives trying to pull together storage data, but they are all operated on a commercial basis, so they will cost you money – we’ve listed what we believe to be the most comprehensive one below.
- www.certainty.co.uk – but they do charge for a search to attempt to locate a missing Last Will and testament with no guarantee of sucess.
Lost Will – How to find a Will that is proving elusive
Looking for a lost Last Will? Probably the first port of call to contact to find Will is the Custody Department of the Principal Probate Registry. We have a few more tips below, and we have asked Will Custodian Ltd to contribute a page on how to find a lost Will. If it is stored with them, it won’t be lost, but their guidance is invaluable. (Back to what to do after a death.)
Who Wrote the Lost Will?
It is possible that the Society of Will Writers may able to help, though not all Will Writers are regulated by them. To ask them about a lost will, contact their Custody Department. But:
Most Lost Wills are written by solicitors.
Not because they are careless, but because they outnumber Will Writers by 20 to 1! You may want to ask a local law firm who is the Secretary of the Local Law Society: they will usually circulate all the local solicitors for you about your lost Will.
However, if the solicitor is no longer in business, the Solicitors Regulation Authority may hold records for firms and individual solicitors. Sometimes the SRA will actually hold the lost Will, other times they can advise you who has taken over the firm who originally wrote it. Of course, they may have no record.
The information that they would require from a customer would be:
- · The name of the firm of solicitors used
- · The name of the individual solicitor they dealt with (although this is not always necessary).
- · If searching further back than 1993, the year in which the Will was made so they can search in the appropriate written records.
When a firm moves, closes or amalgamates into another, they usually hold information of who the successor firm would be, or if no successor firm is appointed, they usually hold details of the location of where files may be held.
In the event that they do not hold information of a successor firm, or if they do not hold a location of files, they would search for solicitors who were at the firm at the time of closure who may still be contactable. If they are still practicing, they would provide the customer with their current practicing details so they could speak with the individual directly.
However, if the individual is not practicing, but the Solicitors Registration Authority hold a personal home address, they would offer the customer a forward on service. The SRA would forward on a letter, requesting files only, on the customers’ behalf using the following procedure:
1. Write a letter for the attention of the solicitor, explaining that they wish to retrieve specific files or documents from them, ensuring that they include their name and contact details on this letter so that the solicitor can contact them directly.
2. Send the request with a covering letter or email to the SRA requesting that we forward on the letter to the private address held on our records.
For further guidance from the Solicitors Regulation Authority about a lost will, 01527 504450. They open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: 8.30 am to 5 pm, Tuesday: 9.30am to 5 pm. Or e-mail email@example.com.
Find a Will:
Advertising may help.
Advertising in the local press or in The Gazette (notice code 2902) reaches a significant audience and increases the prospect of the last will being found. Quoting former names or maiden names of a testator, in case that reveals a will which just might lead to further information.
Contact the doctor
Contacting the deceased’s doctor to see if anyone is noted as being the testator’s attorney or deputy who might be able to help.
A copy of the will may be enough.
Normally, it is necessary for the original will to be sent to the probate registry, along with the application for the grant of representation. However, in some circumstances, the Registry may accept a copy, providing that there is no evidence to suggest that it is has been revoked (cancelled) by the deceased.
We have professional contacts who can help you with the process of applying for probate with a copy.
We hope this may help you to find a lost Will.
How to find a will