Searching for a Will
A will is a vitally important document. It can determine how an individual’s estate should be disbursed after their death; it can give information as to the location of those assets; it can give details of the deceased individual’s wishes with regard to their funeral arrangements; and amongst other things, it should name the individuals who are responsible for carrying out the instructions contained within it.
ExecutorsWhen an individual writes a will, they should have nominated an executor; that is, someone who has been nominated to deal with the deceased person’s affairs. This nominee should, of course, have been consulted beforehand by the individual, and should, therefore, be aware that they are the executor. If this is the case, then the writer of the will is likely to also have informed their executor of its location. Often, however, finding a will is not that simple, either because no executor has been nominated; because they haven’t been informed; or because the will is not where the executor believed it to be.
When looking for a will, there are a number places in which it makes sense to start. The first of these is in the deceased person’s home. The popularity of ‘do-it-yourself’ will-writing kits has meant that many people no longer seek professional help when writing their wills and, as a consequence, simply store the document at home. Although it may be emotionally taxing to look through the deceased person’s belongings, it is vitally important that the document is found.
If the deceased individual had a solicitor or accountant, then they may well have lodged a copy of their will with their offices. A certificate of death will often be required before a firm will release the document, but these can generally be acquired quickly after death. It is also possible to store a copy of a will with some banks; if the deceased individual’s bank is known to you, it may well be worth asking at their local branch.
Other PossibilitiesThere are other, less obvious places in which individuals may store their wills. You may find it useful to apply for information from the UK Will Registry Office. This is an independent service which allows individuals to store their will in a central database, and also allows relevant parties to search for a will that may have been stored by someone who is now deceased. In order to use the service you will be required to fill in an application form, and the Office will send confirmation as to whether or not the relevant will is stored with them. If you find that it is, it is advisable for the executor of the will (or the administrator if no executor was nominated) to subsequently remove it from the Office by filling in the relevant form.
If you cannot find a will, there is a good chance that it simply does not exist. If this is the case then the laws of intestacy apply, which will generally begin with a relevant party applying for Letters of Administration, which will grant them the powers of an executor. In these cases, you may find it useful to read the articles on intestacy elsewhere on this site.