What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that contains your wishes for what happens to your property and assets after you die. It enables you to be in control and decide how exactly your estate is distributed to your chosen beneficiaries and ensures everything you own goes to loved ones just as you want it to.

You appoint an executor in your Will to distribute your estate and can appoint a legal guardian for your children should you die before they turn 18. In addition, you can express funeral requests within your Will to make sure it happens according to your wishes and beliefs.

A Will, combined with Trusts, can minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax payable from the estate.

What Happens When a Will Can’t Be Found?

As a Will outlines the deceased’s wishes for their estate and possessions when they die, it’s important to locate it as soon as possible. It’s not uncommon for a Will to exist but to be stored in a location unknown to those who need it. It’s important to locate the will as soon as possible because it may contain funeral instructions. Even more importantly, discovering a Will further down the probate process can cause problems, particularly if the estate is distributed to the wrong beneficiaries.

If you find yourself in this situation and you are searching for a Will, here are some Will search hints and tips.

Probate Advice Options

search for a will uk

Begin Your Search

Search the Person’s Home

While it may seem obvious, the deceased’s home is a good place to start the search as Wills can sometimes get lost in piles of paperwork or be squirrelled away inside a safe. Many people keep their Will or a copy of it in their home, so it’s worth checking the safe and any documents you find in drawers or cupboards or boxes. Be sure to look in the attic or spare bedroom too in case these are used as storage areas.

If you are not a family member but the executor, make sure you speak to the deceased’s family before searching the house.

Talk to Friends and Family

It’s definitely worth speaking to friends and family about whether the deceased wrote a Will and, if so, where they might have stored it.

Contact Local Solicitor Firms

The deceased may have used a solicitor to write their Will so it’s worth checking with their firm or with all the local firms if you’re unsure which practice they used. A lot of people store their Wills with their solicitor. If you are the Executor, you are entitled to get the Will from wherever it’s being stored.

Check the records for English and Welsh solicitors with the Solicitors Regulation Authority if the solicitor firm has closed down. They will know who took over the firm and where the Will might be now.

Check With Banks and Other Financial Institutions

Some people store their Will and other important documents with their bank or financial institution so it’s worth asking them if they have a copy of the deceased’s Will. The Will can be released to the person or persons named as Executor in the Will.

National Will Register

You can pay £58.80 to check if the deceased’s Will is registered with the National Will Register, which currently has more than 10 million records.

Hire A Professional

You can use a professional company to conduct searches to find missing Wills. In addition to searching Wills stored by solicitors and Will writers across the country, they can search locally to the deceased’s home too.

Missing Will Insurance

You can take out missing Will and trustee indemnity insurance if you fail to find the deceased’s Will. This policy would protect personal representatives as well as beneficiaries, trustees, executors and estate administrators, from any future claims arising if a Will is found after the estate is distributed.

As a guide, Missing Will insurance provides peace of mind because the policy would:

  • Pay up to the full value of the estate
  • Protects you against the risk of future claims being made against you
  • Be reasonably priced, usually around 1% of the estate value
  • Be accepted as an estate cost

What Happens if you Can’t Find a Will?

If you carry out all the searches for a Will but still can’t find one – either the original or a copy of the Will – then you will need to handle the estate as if the deceased died without leaving a Will. This means that the administration of the estate will happen according to the rules of intestacy and will be overseen by the next of kin.

What Happens If a Will Is Found After The Estate Has Been Distributed According To The Rules Of Intestacy?

If a Will is found after the estate has been administered under the laws of intestacy, the beneficiaries under the Will can make a claim against the personal representatives of the estate who obtained the letters of administration for probate and against any individuals who benefitted from the estate under the intestacy rules.

The executors under the new Will can ask the court to revoke the original letters of administration for probate. A new grant of probate would then be issued, enabling the estate to be handled according to the wishes in the Will – or rather, for a new settlement to be negotiated to ensure the intended beneficiaries are able to inherit.

The court can use its discretion under Section 61 of the Trustee Act 1925 to full or partially excuse the personal representative of personal liability if it believes they acted in good faith. If the personal representative can show they conducted an extensive and thorough search for a Will initially, this will help them if a Will is suddenly found at a later date.

It may be a better solution for beneficiaries to reach a settlement outside of court, if possible, or legal costs can quickly spiral in claims cases.

If Missing Will insurance is in place, however, handling the costs of the redistribution of the estate would be taken care of by the policy. This would mean the personal representatives, beneficiaries, trustees, executors and administrators, are protected from any potential claims against them. The full value of the estate would be paid by the insurance company and then distributed according to the wishes in the newly found Will.

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