If you are the surviving spouse or relative and know that a Will has been written but you’re unable to find it, what happens next?
As a guide, you should conduct a thorough search to try to find the Will before assessing your options – depending on the outcome of your search, you might need to seek legal advice to distribute the estate according to your loved one’s wishes and ensure the rules of intestacy do not apply.
Searching For A Will
To ensure the deceased’s estate is distributed according to their wishes rather than the rules of intestacy, you need to find their original Will.
There are key places to search for the Will, including:
Many people keep their Will at home, often in a safe or with other important documents, so searching the deceased’s home is a good place to start.
- Friends & Family
Speak to friends and family members of the deceased, to see if they are storing the Will – at the very least, if it’s not with them, they might know where it is being stored.
Some people store their Wills at their bank or building society so it’s a good idea to check here too.
Many people store their original Will with their solicitor’s firm, to ensure it is kept safe. If the deceased’s local solicitors’ firm has closed, you can contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority for details of the company that took over from the firm.
- National Will Registry
More than 10million Wills are registered with the National Will Registry so it’s worth checking the registry.
What Happens If You Can’t Find The Original Will?
The answer to this question depends on the particular circumstances surrounding the missing Will.
The Will Was Destroyed
If the original Will cannot be found but it was believed to have last been with the deceased, the legal assumption is that the Will has been destroyed with a view to it being revoked.
When this happens, loved ones need to provide evidence to show the deceased did not intend to revoke it.
The Will Was Never Made
If the Will cannot be found and it is believed there wasn’t one in the first place, then the rules of intestacy apply.
Only The Copy Is Found
If the original Will isn’t found but a signed copy is, then loved ones can apply to the Probate Registry under Rule 54 of the Non-Contentions Probate Rules 1987, for an Order that enables them to prove the copy is legally valid.
No original or copy can be located
We always recommend that a Missing Will Search is undertaken. There are various companies that can undertake a Will search for a fee which would be payable from the estate. This can protect family members in the event that a Will is later found, when the estate has been dealt with previously on the basis that there was no Will. It can also be advised that Missing Will Insurance is taken out.
For this Order to be successful, relatives will need to provide evidence that the copy is the same as the original Will and that the original has been lost rather than destroyed and revoked. The Registrar will also need to be satisfied that every person who would be entitled to the estate, if there was no Will in existence (i.e. under the Rules of Intestacy) are in agreement with a copy of the Will being proved.
How We Can Help You When A Will Is Missing
When a Will can’t be found or only a copy of the Will can be found, it can be stressful for loved ones to prove that the original wasn’t revoked by the deceased and that their estate should still be distributed according to their wishes rather than the rules of intestacy.
It is a complex area of law, but our specialists have the knowledge and experience to help clients with lost Wills and estate administration. Our solicitors will provide expertise together with advice and guidance on searching for the Will and providing the necessary evidence for the Will to be deemed legally valid, to ensure the best possible outcome for you in this situation.