What do I do if a Will has been lost or destroyed?
Posted on 2nd March 2020
When a loved one has died, it can be difficult to know what to do; especially if you can’t find their Will. If the deceased had definitely made a Will during their lifetime, but it’s just lost (or ‘misplaced’, as most people would like to say), there are a number of things you can do to locate the Will, which our local solicitors for Wills discuss more, below. If the Will has been destroyed, this can be more complicated; read our Wills solicitors in Lancaster’s explanation of the issues with destroyed Wills, below.
The common issue with both lost and destroyed Wills is that the original Will normally needs to be submitted to the Probate Registry when applying for a Grant of Probate. If you can’t find the original Will, you may not be able to get the Grant of Probate until this is found, or until you can get confirmation (usually in the form of an Order) from the Probate Registry confirming they will accept a copy of the signed Will.
How do I find a lost Will?
There are a few things you can do to try and find a lost Will. The first option would be to sort through all of the deceased’s paperwork to try and find either the Will itself, or evidence of where the Will is stored. For example, a letter from a solicitor who may hold the Will, or confirmation that the Will is stored with a bank or building society. If you can find a photocopy, if the Will was professionally drafted, such as by our team of Wills solicitors in Lancaster, it may say the firm or organisation’s name on the front.
If you have no luck finding the Will in the papers, you could try one of the following options:-
#1 Contact the solicitor or legal firm who drafted the Will
If someone contacts our team of local solicitors to explain that their loved one has passed away, we would need to see the original death certificate to check that the person has, in fact, passed away. For obvious reasons, we wouldn’t want to release the original Will to somebody when their loved one was still alive. Once we had checked the death certificate, and taken a copy for our records, we would need the authority of the executor or, if there is more than one, from all of them. On collection of the Will, we would require ID from the collector – photographic, unless otherwise agreed.
The process of collecting the Wills is explained to our clients when they instruct us so, even though it may seem frustrating for you to have to provide so much information, it’s important that we don’t disclose the details of a person’s Will until they have passed away or after they have passed away, to the wrong person.
If the law firm that held the Will originally, or that you suspect held the Will, no longer exists, you can either contact the firm who has taken over (if you have these details), or you can contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). They may have decided to store all of the firm’s Wills, or they may be able to tell you who does hold them.
#3 Check other local law firms or the bank
You can also contact other local law firms to enquire as to whether they hold the Will, or they are able to provide you with any information about where it is held. Alternatively, many banks historically held original Wills on behalf of their customers, although most don’t offer their service anymore. You could contact the bank to find out whether they hold the Will.
#4 Check with the Probate Registry
The Probate Registry holds Wills for a one-off charge of £20.00. You can read all about their process in their online information form, here. You can contact them to find out whether they hold the original Will.
#5 Carry out a Will search
A service offered by our team of local solicitors in Lancaster and Garstang, is to register the Will. Will registration is popular with our Wills clients. Certainty, the National Will Register, hold over 8.5 million Will registrations.
Rather than holding the Will itself, they store information on when the person made a Will, and where the original is stored.
As an individual, there is a fee of £30.00 to register your Will. If you make your Will using the services of our Will solicitors in Lancaster, we don’t charge our clients for Will registrations – you just pay our fixed-fee legal costs of £110.00 plus VAT.
If Certainty are holding a Will record for the deceased, they will ask the solicitors to contact you to discuss releasing the Will (if they still hold it). If they do not have a Will on their records, they offer the REACH service, which searches for unregistered Wills.
If any of these options help you to locate the original Will, you can continue with the Probate application. If not, you’ll need to apply to the Probate Registry to see whether they will accept a copy of the Will; they will require additional paperwork to be submitted to consider this application.
What do I do if the Will has been destroyed?
If a Will has been destroyed by accident or mistakenly, it is not automatically revoked. In England and Wales, a Will is only revoked if it is destroyed deliberately.
To proceed with your application for Letters of Administration, you will need to provide evidence, undoubtedly providing that the testator intended to destroy the Will.
If you find yourself either unable to find a lost Will, or the original Will has been destroyed, contact our team of local solicitors for Wills to find out how we can help.
MG Legal – Your Local Solicitors
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