How to find a Will – many fail to take proper precautions.
May 2019. Find a Will: there are lots of ways to try to find a lost or mislaid Last Will which is not where you would expect it to be and avoid having to work with the Rules of Intestacy to decide who inherits This page is a guest page written by the folk at Will Custodian Ltd who specialise in making sure your Last Will and Testament and other legal planning don’t get lost, and that you are kept up to date on changes in tax, the law and family circumstances. Without that knowledge, you might not realise you need advice, which is part of the package Will Custodians Peace of Mind Service offers for a couple of pounds or so a month. (See also how to find a copy of a Will which has been through Probate and Disputing a Will).
Will Custodians Guide: How to find a lost Will:
- Where you are unable to find a Will, it may be possible to use a copy to get probate, but only if it is provable that the Will was current and had not been deliberately destroyed. Not easy, but the person who wrote the Last Will will normally have a copy if you can find them. But there is no guarantee that a copy will prove acceptable.
Where to Find a Will.
Do bear in mind that it is a signed and witnessed original Last Will and testament you need to find, or the chances are that the estate will have to be distributed under the Rules of Intestacy.
Most people store these crucial documents at home, so a meticulous search of all paperwork is needed. Where the precaution of safe storage has been taken up, most providers just send a one-page letter confirming receipt and you’ll never hear from them again. So if that letter is lost……
Under the Will Custodian system, there is a copy Will for the person whose Will it is, plus laminated storage certificates (hard to lose!) for them AND their executors. On top of that, there is an annual newsletter and checklist sent out. So if we are storing it, you will know and you won’t be reading this page. Is your Legal Planning secure? Look at the bank statements to see if anyone is being paid for storage, and check with the bank/s to see if there is a safe deposit box. Some people keep Wills at home in inexpensive home safes, but these do get very hot inside if there is a fire, so there is a danger that the Will could be incinerated,
Who to ask when trying to find a Will.
We’ve tried to put this in some sort of logical order:
- Is there a regular solicitor or Will Writer they were in touch with? Look for letters or business cards. Their financial adviser may know.
- Ask the Secretary of the Local Law Society if they would kindly email their members – they will need full name, date of birth and addresses the person has lived at – plus any other names they may be known by (find the birth certificate – people often don’t use their legal names.)
- The Principal Probate Registry stores some Wills: you have to write to them with an original death certificate: they will give NO information on the phone. Address: Principal Registry of the Family Division, First Avenue House, 7th Floor, 42-49 High Holborn, Holborn. London WC1V 6NP. If the Will is stored with them, there should be a Certificate with the relevant number on it, but it is just a flimsy piece of paper, easily lost. The PA7A-eng is the form used to retrieve Wills stored by the Principal Probate Registry. Our PA7A-eng has some useful notes too. The PA7-eng is the SECOND page.
- The Society of Will Writers stores a large number of Wills for current and past members as well as for solicitors etc who have gone out of business, ask for the Custody Department (best to use their email enquiry form). If you ask, they will often circulate members in the relevant region.
- The Solicitors Regulation Authority store tens of thousands of Last Wills etc where the solicitor has gone out of business. We are told that they are very behind with cataloguing, sadly.
- There are a number of initiatives trying to pull together storage data, but they are all operated on a commercial basis, so they will cost you money – we’ve listed what we believe to be the most comprehensive one below.
Lost Will – Finding A Will that is proving elusive.
Looking for a lost Last Will? Probably the first port of call to contact to find a Will is the Custody Department of the Principal Probate Registry. We have a few more tips below, and we have asked Will Custodian Ltd to contribute a page on how to find a lost Will. If it is stored with them, it won’t be lost, but their guidance is invaluable. (Back to what to do after a death.)
Who Wrote the Lost Will?
If it was a Will Writer then it is possible that the Society of Will Writers may able to help, though not all Will Writers are regulated by them. To ask them about a lost will, contact their Custody Department. But:
Most Lost Wills are written by solicitors.
Not because they are careless, but because they outnumber Will Writers by 20 to 1! You may want to ask a local law firm who is the Secretary of the Local Law Society: they will usually circulate all the local solicitors for you about your lost Will.
However, if the solicitor is no longer in business, the Solicitors Regulation Authority may hold records for firms and individual solicitors.
The information that they would require from a customer would be:
- · The name of the firm of solicitors used
- · The name of the individual solicitor they dealt with (although this is not always necessary).
- · If searching further back than 1993, the year in which the Will was made so they can search in the appropriate written records.
When a firm moves, closes or amalgamates into another, they usually hold information of who the successor firm would be, or if no successor firm is appointed, they usually hold details of the location of where files may be held.
In the event that they do not hold information of a successor firm, or if they do not hold a location of files, they would search for solicitors who were at the firm at the time of closure who may still be contactable. If they are still practicing, they would provide the customer with their current practicing details so they could speak with the individual directly.
However, if the individual is not practicing, but the Solicitors Registration Authority hold a personal home address, they would offer the customer a forward on service. The SRA would forward on a letter, requesting files only, on the customers’ behalf using the following procedure:
1. Write a letter for the attention of the solicitor, explaining that they wish to retrieve specific files or documents from them, ensuring that they include their name and contact details on this letter so that the solicitor can contact them directly.
2. Send the request with a covering letter or email to the SRA requesting that we forward on the letter to the private address held on our records.
For further guidance from the Solicitors Regulation Authority about a lost will, 01527 504450. They open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: 8.30 am to 5 pm, Tuesday: 9.30am to 5 pm. Or e-mail email@example.com.