What Happens When You Can’t Find a Will?
What Happens When You Can’t Find a Will?
Dealing with someone’s estate after death is not an easy job, but if you can’t find the person’s Will, it can be even more challenging. Some people may never have made a Will, in which case their estate would be distributed under the Rules of Intestacy. However, if you know they have made a Will and you just can’t find it, you may have to do some serious detective work to track it down.
Where to search for a lost Will
Lots of Wills go missing because they’re not stored securely enough, or the deceased has never told Executors or beneficiaries where the original document is located. So, where do you start?
- Look through the person’s home. Many people keep their original Will at home. Often, it gets shoved in a drawer, muddled up with other paperwork or even thrown out by accident. Go through any files, cabinets or drawers, the safe, under the mattress – anywhere they may have squirrelled it away. People can sometimes hide important documents in strange places, so be as thorough as you can.
- Ask people who knew them. If the deceased didn’t tell Executors where their Will was kept, it’s a good idea to ask around. Close friends and family may know something you don’t.
- Find out if they had a solicitor. If the person who has passed away used a solicitor to make their Will or for significant life events like moving house, they may have used the same law firm’s Will storage services. If not, it may also be worth contacting other local solicitors, and those in areas where the deceased has lived previously, to see if they hold the Will.
- Check with the bank. Some people make Wills through their banks or use the bank’s secure storage facilities to hold important documents, so try contacting institutions where they may hold accounts.
- Contact the Probate Registry. Wills can be registered with the Probate Registry for a fee, so it’s worth doing a Probate Registry search if your efforts have turned up nothing so far.
- Carry out a Will search. If you’re reached a dead end after all that, there are Will search companies who can help you track the original down but obviously, there is a charge for this.
If I can’t find the original Will, can I use a copy instead?
Executors need the original Will in order to apply for Probate. So, if the original has been lost or destroyed, things can get complicated. While it’s still possible to apply for Probate in the absence of the original Will, the person making the application has to provide a sworn affidavit. This must explain the circumstances surrounding the loss of the original Will, provide evidence of the validity of the copy, state facts that refute the presumption the Will has been revoked and detail any attempts that have been made to locate the original document.
Sometimes the beneficiaries under the copy Will may be different from the those who would inherit under the Rules of Intestacy, which can lead to disputes. Should the copy of the Will be rejected, the Rules of Intestacy apply, and the estate will be distributed accordingly. So, it’s always best to get the advice of a Probate professional if you find yourself having to prove a copy Will.
If you need help with to make a Probate application, ask our experienced Probate Extraction Specialists for advice.
Keeping your Will in a safe place
Of course, the best way to avoid all this hassle in the first place is to make sure the original Will is stored in a secure place and that Executors are informed of its whereabouts. A Will storage service is often the best way to protect paperwork and save everyone a lot of unnecessary stress. A dedicated Will storage facility gives you peace of mind that your paperwork is fully protected against loss, theft, fire and floods, and yet is easily accessible to Estate Administrators.
This article is intended to provide information only and does not constitute legal advice. We do not accept any responsibility for any omission or loss as a result of this article.
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