What happens if you can’t find a Will after a death?

A question we’re often asked at ELM Legal Services is ‘how do I find my mum or dad’s Will?’ If you can’t find a deceased person’s Will, and you think there may be one, there are several courses of action you can take to try and locate it.

How to find a Will after a death

You should first search the deceased’s property and go through their paperwork. Even if you don’t find the Will itself, you may find some information about their solicitor, a receipt for the Will, or even a copy of the document.

What if the solicitors that held the Will has closed down?

It is possible that the firm of solicitors that originally held the Will no longer exists, in which case you can contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority Intervention Archives department who store all documents held by firms which they close down.

The London Principal Probate Registry also store Wills that can no longer be held by the original law firm involved.

Finally, a firm called Certainty have a register of a certain number of Wills and will search that for you for a fee.

Do I have to find a deceased family member’s Will?

If you are acting as executor or administrator, it is important that you make an attempt to find a Will.

By undertaking the searches outlined above, you will be able to show that you did everything reasonable to locate any Will. This could be important if potential beneficiaries raise any queries about your actions.

Can I use a copy of a Will for probate?

It may be that a signed copy of the Will is found. Application for grant of probate can be made to the Probate Registry using the copy, but it will need to be accompanied by a sworn affidavit detailing the attempts you have made to locate the original.

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.

What if I still can’t find a Will?

If neither the original Will nor a copy can be located then it will be necessary to proceed with administration of the estate under the rules of intestacy.

These provide a strict order in which close relatives of the deceased will inherit. This starts with any spouse, who will be entitled to the majority of the estate, and is followed by any children.

Making it easier for others to find a Will after your death

Finding lost Wills can bring additional stress to what is already a very difficult time for your family. If you make a Will, you should ensure that you let your loved ones know where it is being stored.

When you have a Will professionally drafted, your Will-writer or solicitor is likely to be able to store the document for safekeeping for you. This is certainly the case if you have a Will written with ELM Legal Services.

You will be given a receipt with all necessary details on it, which you should keep with your important papers.

If you would like to speak to one of our expert Will writers, contact us or call 0117 952 0698. We will be very happy to talk you through your options.

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