What happens when someone dies, and their Will can’t be found

If a Will has been mislaid or inadvertently destroyed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Probate will not be granted.

When someone dies, their executor is responsible for sending the Will to the Probate Registry. The Grant of Probate issued by the Registry is the document which gives the executor the authority to collect in the deceased’s assets, value them then distribute them in accordance with the Will.

Without the original Will, applying for probate is more complicated and there are no guarantees that the Registry will issue the Grant.

Finding the Will

The executor needs to make a thorough search for the original Will. This will involve not only looking through the deceased’s personal papers, but also contacting any law firms and banks with whom they had dealings.

You can ask the local Law Society to make enquiries of its members by sending a request together with details of the deceased’s name and address.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority stores some wills, as does the Principle Probate Registry and the Society of Will Writers. Write to each of these, keeping copies of your letters and any responses you receive.

Applying for Probate with a copy Will

If the Will cannot be found it is still possible to apply for Probate if you have a copy of the Will and you believe that it has not been revoked. The Probate Registry will ask you to provide various documentation in support of your application, as follows:

  • Evidence that the copy is true and complete;
  • Evidence that the Will was properly executed;
  • Any known details of the loss or accidental destruction of the Will;
  • Written agreement of those who will lose out financially if the copy Will is accepted, ie. those who would otherwise inherit under the Rules of Intestacy;
  • Evidence that the Will wasn’t intended to be revoked;
  • The original copy that you have found, ie. not a copy of the copy.

It can be helpful to use an experienced Probate solicitor to help you put together convincing documentation for the Probate Registry.

There is no guarantee that they will issue a Grant of Probate. If they do not, then the estate will pass under the Rules of Intestacy or in accordance with any previous Will.

It’s a good idea to consider storing your Will with your solicitor, but let family members know where it is and keep a copy of the law firm’s details together with a copy of the Will.

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