How do I go about searching for a Will?

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When a person dies, their Will plays a vital role in determining who carries out their wishes and how their assets are to be distributed. It can also provide details such as funeral arrangements or the guardianship of minor children. Given its importance, this document should be drafted with legal advice in a timely manner and securely stored.

In most circumstances, a copy of a Will is kept with other important papers and the appointed executors are made aware of how to access it when necessary. This will be required when applying for a Grant of Probate and to deal with finances held by financial institutions. The copy will usually indicate who drafted the original document.

Unfortunately, however, locating the Will of a deceased person may not always be a straightforward process. Faced with such a situation, what can be done?

Contacting the law firm that acted for the deceased is the best starting point. It may have acted for them on other legal matters such property purchases. If the firm or person who drafted the Will is unknown, a second port of call may be the bank used by the deceased, as some hold documents for customers. If those enquiries prove fruitless but the Will was registered, then you could conduct a Will search for a fee or place a notice for all affiliated Will writers that a search is being conducted for that deceased person.

In England and Wales, only the executors of a Will are entitled to see the document until it enters the public domain through a Grant of Probate or a Court claim being issued. If you remain empty-handed having pursued all the avenues listed above but believe that there is an executor or law firm involved, then it’s worth placing a standing search with the probate registry. A standing search with the probate registry will notify you if probate has been granted within the previous six months and you will be sent a copy of the Grant and Will at that time.

Time is of the essence in such situations and taking legal advice can assist you in your search with the ultimate objective of administering the estate and reducing the risk of an inheritance dispute.

For advice on locating a Will or a potential dispute, please contact our contentious probate team.