How do I get a copy of a Will in England and Wales?

How do I get a copy of a Last Will & testament?

How do I get a copy Last Will & testament in England or Wales?

(Looking for the Will of a person who has only recently died so probate will not yet have been granted – go here.) We can’t help directly, unless you need professional advice, but this page will help you to get a copy Last Will and testament if probate has been granted in the past.

Please do NOT ring us (or any Probate Registry) about copy last will & testaments. You can of course ring us if you need paid professional advice! We handle normal probate cases in house, as well as contentious probate.  We do charge for an initial review for contentious probate, but a small initial fee could save you wasting tens of thousands of pounds.

Before reading any further, I would urge you to consider whether you own Legal Planning is adequate.   That is why the number of disputes over Wills is rising, and why Local Authorities are taking over running increasing numbers of lives. If you don’t want that to happen, you need to act!

PLEASE DO READ THIS PAGE CAREFULLY before acting!!

LATEST:  the Government are trialling a new search facility for Wills which have been through probate, try it out HERE.

The easy option is a new service offer by the Government for copy Last Wills and Grants of Probate. We understand that you cannot order sealed copies for formal purposes by this route – that has to be done by filling in the PA1S form and posting it to them.

How do I get a copy Last Will & testament is a question we get every day. Your local Probate Registry can send you the necessary enquiry form, or you can download it HERE (the link is about halfway down the page.) Better yet, there is a specialist order line on 0330 102 1072.

While someone is alive, only they can give you a copy of a Will: no one else is normally entitled to see it or know its’ contents.  On death, the executors (only) are entitled to see the Will.  They may or may not chose to let others have copies.  If probate has been granted then the Will becomes a public document and anyone can obtain a copy.

BUT only if it was necessary to obtain a grant of probate and often it is not.  In which case all you can do is ask the executors for a copy – and they may not wish to give you one as even the beneficiaries have no right to a copy Will!  Perhaps not really a satisfactory situation.

If you want a get a copy of a probated Will, then the Postal Search & Copies Department is the main source.

Clearly, they cannot provide copy Wills unless probate has been granted.  Complete and send this form to obtain a copy Last Will & testament and or Grant of Probate of a deceased person to the Postal Search & Copies Department – the address is on the form (don’t send it to us please!)

At the time of writing the fee for a copy Will is £10, and they will include a copy of the grant of probate too (if you ask for it.)  The Grant document will show you who dealt with the Will and Probate.

Rather than fill in the form, you can write and give Postal Search & Copies Department  as much information as you possibly can: the full name, last known address and date of death of the person concerned if known.  But we would strongly urge you to fill in the form to avoid omitting required information and reducing the chances of a successful search.

Please read their instructions which are reproduced at the foot of the page. But the form makes sure you don’t miss anything and send the form or letter and payment to:

The Postal Searches and Copies Department is at York House York Place Leeds LS1 2BA.
You CANNOT phone them.

A search can normally be made using less detail, but if the date of death is not known, you must state the year from which you want the search to be made, or give some other evidence that might indicate when the person died. We would suggest you ring the Copies and Postal Searches Department for advice in these circumstances.  If you have information about legal actions related to Probate or the disposition of assets, include that on your application.

Many people find it convenient to order copies in this way even if they have already made a search of the Probate indexes and located a record relating to the subject of their research, but if this is the case, please include the grant type, issuing Registry and grant issue date on your application, as well as the Folio number if applicable (see above) as this can speed up the supply of copies considerably.

The fee should be payable to “HMCTS”, and if it is paid from abroad, must be made by bank draft, payable through a United Kingdom bank and made out in £ sterling. If you are applying for a search as well, you can request a search of any length, and fees for this are outlined above.   At the time of writing, they will not accept payment by bank transfer.

The records referred to here relate only to estates in England and Wales.

Please note that, since the Postal Search & Copies Department serves as a national centre for postal requests for searches and copies, it is not possible to inspect the Probate indexes in person there.

The Service has undergone a process of computerisation, but as yet this covers only recently issued grants, which will be of limited interest to genealogists. However, anyone who is interested in checking up on grants since 1996 can search the Probate Service database themselves at the Principal Probate Registry in London and Manchester District Probate Registry. The Postal Searches and Copies Department at York is also completing a long period of computerisation, which should see a much-improved service to family history researchers, with clearer and more comprehensive information and quicker supply of documents.

Instructions regarding obtaining copy Last Will & testament and Grants.

This is what the PA1 says about the extra services available:

“Postal Searches and Copies Department: Information and Conditions of Service

Applicable dates and records held: The Postal Searches and Copies Department has access to indexes relating to all Probate records for the whole of England and Wales from 11 January 1858 up to the present day. You may apply for a copy of any proved Will, as well as a copy of the Grant of Representation.

The Grant will tell you who were the Executors or Administrators (those appointed to gather in and distribute the estate). It may also tell you the name of the Solicitor acting for them (if any) and the value of the estate, although usually only in very broad terms.

The financial summary shown on the Grant is the only information relating to the estate that the Probate record contains. No inventory or estate accounts are available. Occasionally, further details are available from the Capital Taxes Office, but you will normally need the written consent of the executors or administrators.

Please note that, if Probate has not been granted, the Probate Service will have no record of the estate and will therefore not be able to provide copies of any document relating to it.

Please also note that sealed copies are only available to executors/administrators of an estate.  If the death was recent, it may be that Probate has not yet been cleared. Consequently, it may be advisable to wait two or three months after the date of death before having a search made, in order to allow time for the Probate process to be completed.

If you apply before Probate has been completed, you will be notified that no details are available. If you wish to pursue your enquiry, you will need to reapply after a suitable interval, enclosing a further fee and resubmitting all the relevant details, or enter a Standing Search. A Standing Search remains in force for a period of 6 months from the date of entry and provides copies of the Will (if any) and Grant if a Grant issues during this period. Contact any Probate Registry for further details.”
Queries: If you have a query about an application you have submitted, please write to The Postal Searches and Copies Department,  York House, York Place, Leeds LS1 2BA.

It is not possible to telephone the Postal Searches and Copies Department and no other Probate Registry can answer queries about searches sent to that address.

Fees: When returning the completed application to the Postal Searches and Copies Department in Leeds, please also enclose the fee of £10.00. Each extra copy of the same document ordered at the same time will attract an additional fee of 50p each of grant and will. Cheques or Postal Orders should be crossed and made payable to ‘HM Courts & Tribunals Service’.

Fees from abroad should be paid by International Money Order, cheque or draft, payable through a United Kingdom bank, and must be made out in £ sterling. We are currently unable to accept payments by credit or debit card, nor are we able to receive search requests by telephone. Please contact any Probate Registry for details of fees for special copies (for instance if you are administering estate abroad), and mark your application accordingly.

The standard fee covers a 4-year search starting from the year in which the death occurred (or the year from which you ask us to start searching). Longer searches are charged at a rate of £4.00 per 4-year period, so that an 8-year search will cost £10.00, and a 12-year search £14.00. Please specify the period to be searched (as well as the date of death if known) and send the appropriate fee. If the death occurred within the last 4 years, the search will be made up to the most recent index. If the search is successful, we will obtain and forward copies of the Will and/or Grant as requested. If no Grant has issued in this time, you will be notified accordingly.

We aim to respond to your request within 21 working days.

If a record is traced, the standard fee includes one copy of the Will, if any, and Grant, if requested. If the details you supply are incomplete, ambiguous or incorrect and the documents cannot be traced as a result, you will be asked to reapply, giving the correct information and enclosing a further payment. We cannot accept responsibility for the
accuracy of the search unless full and correct details are given that accord with the information supplied on application for the Grant, normally the information in the Register of Deaths. If there is insufficient information to make a search, we will contact you for further details. Please note that your payment is not refundable in the event of a negative search result.

Copies or results of a negative search will be sent from the Probate Records Centre where our records are stored.

Original documents: If you are applying for copies of older documents, you should be aware that some of these are in poor condition. Although we make every effort to produce a legible copy from the documents we hold, a small proportion will be of unavoidable poor quality.

Other parts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland: the jurisdiction of the Probate Service is limited to England and Wales.

If the deceased died domiciled in Scotland, you could try contacting HM Commissary Office, 27 Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 2NS (Tel: 0131 247 2850) if the death occurred after 1985, or the Scottish Records Office, HM General Register House, Edinburgh EH1 3YY (Tel: 0131 535 1334) for records prior to this. For

Northern Ireland, contact the Probate and Matrimonial Office, The Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast BT1 3JF (Tel: 028 9023 5111), or, if the death occurred more than 7 years ago, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 66 Balmoral Street, Belfast, BT9 6NY (Tel: 028 9025 1318). For the Republic of Ireland, contact the Probate Office, Fourt Courts, Dublin 7 (Tel: Dublin 725555), or the National Archives Office, Bishop Street, Dublin 8 (Tel: Dublin 407 2300) for records more than 20 years old.

The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man also have independent Probate Courts. This article is about copy Last Will & testaments in England and Wales.

How do I get a copy of a Will?