How to find a will and other probate preliminaries

How to find a Will

When somebody dies, their affairs are generally dealt with smoothly and efficiently. The executors will usually know where to find the will, the death will be registered and all relevant parties notified. A Grant of Probate is applied for. The estate is then administered and the beneficiaries receive their legacies as per the deceased’s wishes.

However, things do not always run this smoothly. In fact problems can be encountered at the first hurdle, finding the will.

The executor is named in the will, so it is important to find the will to identify who the executor, or executors are. The role of the executor is crucial. They are responsible for dealing with the estate and applying for probate. They collect all the assets, pay the liabilities, deal with the tax and distribute the estate according to the terms of the will. They can also be held responsible for any financial errors. 

So, to get this process underway the very first step is to locate the Will. There are various ways this can be done.

First, check any property the deceased resided in. Most people keep their will in a place of safety along with their other private papers. If it isn't there then talk to any care home they were in, speak to the hospital where they died or ask close friends and neighbours.

The executors themselves may have been told of their appointment by the deceased and it is common for them to be given 'executor's copies' of the will. 

If this doesn't result in the will being found you can make enquiries with the deceased's solicitor, accountant or their bank. 

If you do not know which solicitor the deceased used you can consider contacting all the solicitor practices in the local area to see if they drafted the will and have stored it on the deceased's behalf.

There are organisations that can help you locate a Will. However they charge a fee for their services and there is no guarantee that they will find a will. The National Will Register https://www.nationalwillregister.co.uk is run by Certainty and is endorsed by the Law Society.

If no will can be located then it may mean that the deceased died intestate.

Is a beneficiary entitled to see a copy of the will?

Once a will has been located it should be passed to the executor. There is no legal requirement on an executor to provide a beneficiary, family member or anyone else with a copy of the will prior to a Grant of Probate being obtained.

After probate has been granted a will becomes a public document. This means that anyone can seek a copy. Simply go to the Government’s ‘Find a Will’ website at https://www.gov.uk/search-will-probate. You you will need to know the deceased’s surname and their year of death. If probate has been granted the deceased’s details will be listed. You can then pay £10 (as at November 2018) for a copy of any documents that are held, including the will itself. 

If nothing is listed for the deceased, then probate has not been granted.  

What is a grant of probate?

A grant of probate is a legal document that allows the administration of the estate.

If the deceased died without a will then a grant of representation is applied for, usually by the next of kin.

Both grants allow the administration of the estate and impose time limits for somebody to bring an Inheritance Act claim against the estate.

What if probate has not been granted?

You can enter a standing search. Contact your local probate registry via phone or in person. Alternatively you can complete a PA1S form https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/find-a-will-or-probate-document-form-pa1s via the Government website.

A standing search lasts for 6 months. Having a standing search in place means that if somebody obtains a grant of probate, you will be notified. It will cost you £10 (as at November 2018) to enter a standing search and it can be renewed every 6 months for a charge of £6. If a grant has been issued, you will receive a copy of the grant alongside a copy of the Will, if there is one.

It is worth noting that a grant doesn’t always have to be obtained in order for an estate to be administered.

How we can help you

If you require legal assistance with any of these issues  then please give our contentious probate specialists a call on 0808 139 1599 or email us at info@inheritancedisputes.co.uk