Does A Will Become A Public Document After Death?
Posted on 3rd June 2020
When you die, if your Executors need to apply for Probate in order to administer your Estate, once the application and original Will have been submitted to the Probate Registry, the Will document will become public record.
When you are writing your Will, it’s therefore important to avoid including any private information that you would rather did not become public. For example, if you want to include any information about excluding a relative or specific gifts or messages that you want to pass onto your loved ones, our Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors would suggest that these are kept in a separate letter, and not included in your Will.
When does a Will become public?
When a person passes away, if a Grant of Probate will be required to deal with their Estate, their Will needs to be submitted to the Probate Registry as part of the application for Probate. A person’s Estate is everything they own, such as property, bank accounts and liabilities. Once Probate has been issued, the deceased’s Will would then become a public document.
A Grant of Probate is a legal document, giving the relevant person authority to deal with the deceased’s Estate. Grants of Probate are issued by the Probate Registry, a division of the High Court. Probate Registries are located across the country, with our team of Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors utilising the Registries in Manchester and Liverpool on behalf of our Probate clients.
The relevant person would usually be the Executor or Executors named in the Will, however, if they are all unable to act, it may be the person entitled under the Rules of Intestacy.
Probate may not be required, if the person’s assets are relatively small. For example, if the deceased only had a bank account with less than a certain amount in – depending on the bank account provider – Probate may not be required. If your Executors do need to apply for Probate, they may not be able to start dealing with your assets until the Grant of Probate has been issued.
When the Executors (or other relevant person) makes the application for a Grant of Probate, they will need to send the original Will to the Probate Registry. This would be the latest version of the deceased’s Will; if they have made previous Wills, these do not need to be submitted to the Probate Registry as, once a person has made a new Will (and it has been signed and witnessed correctly), the previous Will would, usually, be revoked.
Once Probate has been issued, the current Will would become public, and anyone could obtain a copy online. Our Wills, Trusts and Probate Solicitors would explain that any previous Wills of the deceased (that had since been revoked by the new Will) would not become public.
How do you obtain a copy of a Will?
Gov.uk offers a service where anyone can request copies of Grants of Probate and Wills at a small cost of £1.50 per copy required. You can find the service, here.
How do I keep some information private in my Will?
The best way to keep some information private in your Will is to not include it. Instead, our Wills, Trusts and Probate solicitors would recommend that any private information is kept in a separate document, commonly referred to as a letter of wishes.
A letter placed with your Will could be used to explain to your family why you have chosen to exclude some of them. For example, if you are not including children, you may worry that they could try and make a claim under the Inheritance (Provisions For Family and Dependants) Act 1975 which you can read about more in our Wills Solicitor’s blog, here.
In addition, other information that you may choose to include in your letter could be notes or messages to your loved ones, wishes on how your Executors distribute certain items (such as personal possessions) and funeral wishes. Whilst unlike your Will a letter would not be legally binding, it would remain private and therefore allow your private wishes and desires to not be made public following your death.
Where do I store my Letter of Wishes?
Our Wills, Trusts and Probate solicitors would generally advise storing your Letter of Wishes with your original Will, so that it could be easily located in the future, once you have passed away. You can read more about storage of Wills in our Wills Solicitors’ blog, here.
At MG Legal, as well as offering free Will storage for all of our Will drafting clients, we will also store any additional letter of wishes or notes that you wish to be placed with your Will at no charge.
How do I make a Will and Letter of Wishes?
To arrange an appointment to make or amend your Will, contact our Wills Solicitors online, here, or contact your local office directly – Lancaster, Longridge or Garstang.
Alternatively, email us to firstname.lastname@example.org, and a member of the team will be back in contact with you to discuss your requirements within one working hour.
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