Why you should never store your Will in a bank safety deposit box
The importance of making sure your Will is safely stored and easily accessible has been highlighted by the failure of Lloyds Bank's to return 9,000 Wills, held as part of its 'safe custody' service, to the families of deceased customers.
The mistake means that hundreds of bereaved families may have administered a deceased relative's estate using the wrong Will, not knowing the right one was being stored for safekeeping by Lloyds Bank.
As a result, assets may have been distributed to the wrong people leading to a difficult situation for many families.
It could also pave the way for a number of contentious probate and negligence claims as well as tax disputes where estate planning measures outlined in the lost Wills were never carried out.
The blunder has led to calls from organisations like Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) as well as the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) for anyone who has a Will stored in a bank safety deposit box to move it when possible.
Where can I safely store my Will?
Lawyers like Wards Solicitors specialise in drafting Wills and will safely store your original Will for you free of charge.
There is also the advantage that we will contact you periodically to check whether any changes are necessary.
It is important to ensure that your family know where your Will is kept and that your executors can easily access it when you die.
The problem with a bank safety deposit box is that the executor won't be able to access the Will until probate is granted and this cannot be granted without a Will.
Background to the Lloyds case
The Wills were found among some 190,000 valuable papers stored by Lloyds' 'safe custody' service which was closed to new customers in 2011.
In a number of cases, the bank did not trace the customer's Will when informed that person had died meaning that potentially, their family then used an out of date Will to administer the estate.
A spokesperson for Lloyds, which is investigating each case individually, said: "We are deeply sorry for the distress and inconvenience caused and will ensure that those affected are fully compensated."
It said it has now centralised all items stored under the old 'safe custody' scheme and digitised its paper records.
- Anyone affected should make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman and a counter claim against Lloyds directly.
Click here to see what else we have written recently on what to do if you can't find a loved one's original Will after they die.
Partner Jenny Pierce, head of the Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team has specialised in Will writing, probate, long term care planning, capital tax planning, elderly client law and trusts and law relating to mental incapacity since 1994.
She is a national director of Solicitors for the Elderly and its regional coordinator for Bristol & Bath. She is also a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Planners (STEP).
For help and advice please contact Wards Solicitors' specialist Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team.