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What happens if you can’t find the original Will?


Author: Caroline Billings

Wills, Tax and Probate

What happens if, as Executors, we can’t find the original Will?

What happens if you can’t find the original Will?

If someone dies leaving a valid Will, it is the responsibility of the appointed Executors to locate the original Will and carry out the wishes of the deceased person therein. If required, the Executors may need to apply for a ‘Grant of Probate’ to allow them to administer the estate.

This is simply a court order confirming the Executors’ authority to deal with the estate and is required by many organisations to allow Executors to collect in/ sell large assets. This can include the sale of a property, sale of shares and to collect in large sums from banks and building societies.

The benefit of having a Will is Executors already have authority to deal with the assets of a deceased person from the date of death.

Dying intestate

If someone dies without leaving a valid Will, they have died ‘intestate’ and the Administrators of the estate may need to apply for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’. This is a court order that gives authority to the Administrators of an estate to deal with the assets of the deceased person.

The downside of someone dying intestate is no one has authority to deal with a person’s assets until they have successfully applied for, and received, the Grant of Letters of Administration. The Administrators are essentially in ‘No Man’s Land’ until that point.

The collective term for Executors and Administrators is ‘Personal Representatives’ (‘PRs’). PRs’ duties can vary widely depending on the assets of the deceased person and how much work is involved in administering the estate. Some estates could be very straightforward (i.e. one property to sell and one bank account to close) and others more complex (i.e. many properties to sell/ many bank accounts, shares, premium bonds, insurance policies, many debts to be paid etc.).

Hatch Brenner offer a competitively priced service in respect of our estate administration services and a bespoke service to meet PRs’ needs. We can assist in probate matters (where a person has left a valid Will) as well as intestacy matters (where a person dies without leaving a valid Will).

What if I can’t find the Will?

The original Will and death certificate are needed to start dealing with an estate of a deceased person in a probate matter. If you cannot find the original Will, do not panic as there are alternative options available.

We would recommend you; look through the deceased’s paperwork, contact their solicitor or bank to see if they are holding the Will, make enquiries with the deceased person’s family and friends, contact their accountant or even consider a Will Search with Certainty, the National Will Register.

If an original Will absolutely cannot be found, a photocopy of the latest Will or strong evidence of the lost Will’s content should be submitted to the Probate Registry instead, together with the appropriate evidence in support.

Dealing with a loved one’s affairs when they die can already be a very stressful time therefore we are able to make enquiries such as these on a PR’s behalf if they wished to instruct us.

Storage of Wills

At Hatch Brenner Solicitors we offer free storage of our clients’ original Wills indefinitely. This gives our clients peace of mind knowing their Wills are safe in our strongroom. We send our clients a copy of their Will, on completion of a matter, for their records and advise them to inform their Executors of where the original Will is stored. This storage service is completely free of charge and included in our fixed fee cost when we are instructed to draft a Will. This storage process is also included for our client’s Lasting Powers of Attorney documents (‘LPAs’).

Ensuring your original Will is stored safely, and knowing exactly where it is located, is very important. If your original Will is lost, it could lead to circumstances where potential beneficiaries under the Will or an Intestacy situation argue and enter into protracted, expensive litigation to try and resolve the matter. Leaving a valid Will, stored in a safe place, gives everyone assurance that when the time comes, their affairs can be handled smoothly and their chosen beneficiaries have certainty of how the estate will be distributed.

Contact us

If you would like to make a Will or have a family member who has passed away without a Will in place, contact Caroline Billings, Partner and Head of Private Client at Hatch Brenner Solicitors today to discuss your situation on 01603 214 220 or email carolinebillings@hatchbrenner.co.uk.

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If you would like further information about any service, call us on 01603 214220