Searching in vain for a loved one’s original Will when you are the executor can be a stressful experience.
The law demands that you submit the original Will to be proved when you apply for probate at the Probate Registry – this basically means getting the required permission to deal with and distribute the estate of the person who has died.
But what on earth do you do if you can’t find the original Will? What does it mean in terms of administering the estate and ensuring that all the beneficiaries receive their inheritance?
The first thing to remember is, don’t panic. There are a number of ways you can trace an original Will after someone has died.
Finding an original Will:
Found a copy, but not the original?
If you manage to find a signed copy of the original Will, or even a photocopy or some other evidence of the original Will’s contents, it may be possible to submit this to the Probate Registry to be proved.
‘Proving’ means establishing that the copy is a valid public document accepted as the ‘true last testament’ of the person who has died and ensuring as far as possible that they didn’t change their mind and destroy the original.
The Probate Registry will either give permission to prove the copy of the Will or refuse it. But before it does so you will need to:
Help from the Courts
Sometimes, the issue of whether a Will has been lost or destroyed is crucial to who inherits – as a recent Wards Solicitors’ article Rip it up and start again? How to safely change your Will – highlights.
In this case, the judge concerned decided that though the original Will could not be traced, a certified copy found in the deceased person’s possessions could determine how her estate should be distributed.
The importance of a valid Will
Of course, sometimes the reason you cannot find an original Will is that the person who died never made one. There are currently thought to be at least 31 million people in the UK in this position.
Dying without a Will, means the estate must be shared out according to certain strict rules. For example, only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy.
A correctly drawn, and regularly updated Will, is an inexpensive way of avoiding difficulties for your relatives and friends in the future in the event of your death. It puts you in control of the final destination of your estate.
Wards Solicitors will safely store your original Will for you. There is no charge for this service.
For help and advice about making or reviewing your Will or the steps involved to submit a copy of a Will to the Probate Registry, please contact Wards Solicitors’ Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team.