Our expert solicitors for Wills discuss when a Will becomes a public document
Posted on 9th July 2021
Our expert local solicitors for Wills discuss when a Will becomes a public document, and in what circumstances it may never be made public.
Many of us will be interested in what will happen to a famous person’s wealth on their death. Whilst a Will is a private document during a person’s lifetime, unless they choose to share the contents with another person (and is some other limited circumstances, which we have discussed in our blogs at MG Legal previously), when a person dies, if an application for Probate is required, a Will becomes a public document.
Copies of a Will can be obtained via the Probate Registry website, here, at a cost of around £1.50. For those of us who are interested in this topic, there are numerous articles online speculating about what celebrities may intend to do with their wealth on their deaths. For example, according to speculation, some celebrities, including Simon Cowell, Elton John, David Furnish and Andrew Lloyd Webber, will leave much of their estates to various charities or trusts established for the benefit of specific groups of people.
Whilst we would not know truly know what people will do with their estate on their deaths until they have died and their Will has become public, there are many well-known people who have already died who have left their estates distributed under the terms of their Wills, which are now public information. Sometimes this information can be found by simply googling the person’s name.
You may be wondering, however, why you might not find certain Wills on public record. Our expert local solicitors for Wills explaining why some Wills are sealed, below.
Sealing a Will:
As explained above, when a Will is submitted to the Probate Registry and Probate is granted, it becomes a public document. Any member of the public can go online or contact the Probate Registry and request a copy of the Will, which, upon payment of the necessary fee, will be provided.
However, in some cases, a Will can be sealed, meaning that it is hidden from public records. You may wonder why anyone would want to do this? In the case of the Monarchy, most of their Wills are not readily available by public record. This was allegedly the case following a gift made by one member of the Royal Family of
prized family jewels to his mistress. The avoidance of the publication of Wills as public documents is allowed under the Non-Contentious Probate Rules, which state that “An original will or other document referred to in section 124 of the Act shall not be open to inspection if, in the opinion of a registrar, such inspection would be undesirable or otherwise inappropriate.”
It is believed that anyone can make use of this Rule, although there is no indication of how many people may have done so. As the rule states, if someone wished to make such an application, it will be whether in the opinion of the registrar, having the document public would be “undesirable or otherwise inappropriate”.
Can a Will be Redacted before it is made public?
In some circumstances, the Registrar may direct that a Will is ‘redacted’ before it is made a public document.
In one such case that our team at MG Legal dealt with, it was requested that certain wording was removed from a Will, as it was not pertinent to the gifts left in the Will itself. When this happens, a new Will has to be typed up, using the exact wording (save for the sections to be removed), punctuation, spacing etc as the original Will. The redacted version is then submitted to the public record.
This could be, for example, wording that does not pertain to a gift, but is instead a comment made to or about another person of a personal nature.
Can MG Legal, Solicitors near me, help with my Wills and Probate matters?
At MG Legal, our expert team can offer you a fixed fee initial consultation to discuss your probate matter. We offer fixed fee probate applications, and can discuss with you dealing with the full administration of the deceased’s estate, if required. If you are wanting to make a Will or update your existing Will, our team offer fixed fee Wills. You can read about our fees, here.
How can I contact MG Legal?
You can contact our expert team of local solicitors online, here, or contact your local office directly.
Our team are available during office hours, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. For assistance outside of office hours, email firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of the team will get back to you as soon as possible.
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