How to Find a Will & Testament when someone dies: 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. The first section is about finding the Will when someone has died, the second obtaining copies of Wills which have been through the Probate Courts – and not all do.
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 that has been through Probate and Disputing one on the relevant pages). Why not Contact Us for more information? – What to do when someone dies?
Where do people store Wills? 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.
How to find a Will on death – many fail to take proper precautions to keep them safe.
Though possibly biased, we don’t think there is anything better than the Peace of Mind Service offered by Will Custodian Ltd: it keeps the documents safe, provides copies,, encourages you to review matters regularly, and helps clients to keep up to date with changes in Tax and Law. There is a free helpline for members and a hefty discount on updates whwn they are needed. Some clients will save £140,000. Don’t bother asking them if you need finding a Will, as it is very unlikely to be one of they store, which are easy to find.
Where to Find a Will that may have been lost or mislaid.
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.
Under the Will Custodian system, there is a copy for the person whose document 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. Need to register a death? Click here!
Where to look when trying to find a Will:
Wherever YOUR Will is, it needs to be safe and accessible to your executors, who clearly need to know where it is.
We’ve tried to put this list of places to try in some sort of logical order:
- Most people sadly store these crucial documents at home, so a meticulous search of all paperwork is needed. If that search is carried out by someone who doesn’t like the contents of the Will, it just could “disappear.” 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… (Business people often keep important documents at work.)
- The doctor may have a record of a power of attorney, and the attorneys are quite likely to be executors or know who is.
- The Office of the Public Guardian has a search facility, but will ask you to justify the reason for the search, and may ask for a death certificate. The search service is currently free.
- Check that their bank doesn’t hold a Will (but watch out for their expensive probate services!) Bear in mind that if it is in a Safe Deposit box, the executors may not be able to access it unless they have obtained probate – for which the Last Will is a requirement, so do NOT store such documents there.
- Is there a regular solicitor or Will Writer they were in touch with? Look for letters or business cards.
- Their financial adviser may know, and quite a few financial advisers write Wills or introduce clients to Professional Will Writers.
- Ask the Secretary of the Local Law Society if they would kindly email their local members if they have information regarding the lost Will – 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.) If the firm is no longer in business, they may be able to tell you who took it over. Failing that:
- Most lost Wills are written by solicitors. Not because they are careless, but because they outnumber Will Writers by 20 to 1! 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, so local solicitors may just know who took over. The other issue with the SRA is that it can take well over a year to go through and record the documents held by a former solicitors practice (I have heard it can take 3 years!)
The information that they would require from a customer to find a will would be as much as possible of:
- 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 holds a personal home address, they would offer the customer a forward-on service. The SRA would forward a letter, requesting files only, on the customers’ behalf using the following procedure:
a. 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.
b. Send the request with a covering letter or email to the SRA requesting that we forward 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
9. 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.
10. The Society of Will Writers stores a large number of documents for current and past members as well as for solicitors etc who have retired, ask for the Custody Department (best to use their email enquiry form). If you ask, they will often circulate members in the relevant region.
11. Though much smaller than the Society, the Institute of Professional Will Writers can ask their local members.
12. The Solicitors Regulation Authority stores 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.
13. Speak to friends and family.
14. Check bank statements for storage or Will writing fees.
15. 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 – this is the most comprehensive online will search faility we believe: www.certainty.co.uk the National Will Register (a business) and they do charge for a search to attempt to locate a missing Last Will and testament with no guarantee of success. All the Wills of our Peace of Mind Service Members are also registered with Certainty.
16. 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. I believe this can be included in a Certainly search, at extra cost.
- Need to register a death? Click here to find out more!
Section 2: Find a Will which has passed through the probate process.
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.
If it is suspected to be lost Will rather than having been revoked (cancelled), and there is clear evidence remaining that proves the testator’s wishes, an application can be made to the court for this to be proved in place of the original will. The procedure for this order is set out in rule 54 of the Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987.
The application must be made by the person who is applying for the grant of probate, which is often the executor named in the document in question. This must be supported with sworn a statement of evidence with all relevant documentation. This evidence should broadly include:
- The circumstances in which the original will appears lost, including where the will was last seen.
- The attempts and searches that the executors have undertaken to locate it.
- Details of anyone who would benefit from the estate if the evidence of the will was not proved. This is primarily focused on parties who would benefit if the deceased died intestate, but either not at all or not as greatly than if the evidence was proved. If those parties do not consent to prove the will based on the evidence submitted, the matter can be referred to the High Court for a ruling.
We have professional contacts who can help you with the process of applying for probate with a copy.
To Find Details of a PROBATED Will go HERE.
Contact Us with any questions you may have!
Need help choosing a Funeral Director? Click here
We hope this may help you to find a lost Will.
How to find a will.
- search for an old will