How To Find a Will

How To Find a Will

Finding a Will can be a daunting task, especially when you are unsure where to begin. One of the initial steps in beginning the search for a Will is obtaining a death certificate. The death certifiacte will prove useful in anumber of ways, and is essential for verifying the right to discuss the Will with banks, will writing companies, financial institutions and the like. If the Executor does not know the location of the last Will, then use this comprehensive guide on the steps needed to locate a Will.

Identifying Potential Sources of the Original Will

Search the Home

Study or Office: When searching the deceased's home, start with the study or office. Check the desk, filing cabinets, shelves, drawers, behind books, or taped underneath surfaces for folders or envelopes labelled ‘Will’ or ‘Estate Planning.’

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Bedroom: Look in wardrobes, dressers, under the mattress, or inside any safe.

Gather Important Info: Collect pension details, insurance policies, and bank/building society accounts for future access. Ensure you collect all important paperwork, such as birth, marriage, and death certificates, which may be necessary for locating the Will.

Search Storage Areas

Garage, Basement, or Loft: Look behind stored items, inside old boxes, suitcases, or within pages of books and magazines.

Check with Professionals

Solicitor or Bank: Contact the company who handled the estate planning or visit the bank where the deceased had an account to enquire about the existence of a Will.

Contacting Relevant Authorities and Institutions

To obtain information about a Will, reach out to the appropriate authorities and institutions for guidance. Start by contacting the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived. They are responsible for handling the distribution of assets and can provide information about any existing Wills. Additionally, contact the deceased’s bank to inquire about the storage of wills and other important documents.

Remember that only the executor has the legal right to obtain and access the deceased's Will before probate has been granted. The probate court can also provide information about the deceased’s estate.

In addition to the probate court, contact the deceased person’s solicitor. If they had legal representation, their lawyer may have a copy of the Will or information on where it is being held.

Another important institution to contact is the bank where the deceased person held any accounts. Banks often offer safety deposit boxes where individuals keep important documents such as Wills.

Lastly, consider reaching out to the firm that handled the deceased’s estate planning. They may have information about the existence of a Will or any other relevant estate planning documents.

Searching Online Databases and Will Registries

Utilising online databases and registries can be a valuable resource for searching for information related to Wills and estates. Government websites often provide online access to public records, including Wills and probate documents. Check if your local county has an online database where you can search for Wills.

The National Will Register is also a valuable resource for conducting a register search for registered and unregistered Wills. You may also need to look for a Will Registration Certificate, which can help you find the Will on the National Will Register.

Explore genealogy websites, such as Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org, which often have extensive databases that allow you to search for Wills based on the person’s name, location, or other relevant details. Additionally, there is no legal requirement for a Will to be registered online, but you can search for both registered and non-registered Wills on the National Will Register.

Enlisting the Help of a Law Firm

Enlisting the help of professionals can be invaluable in your search for a Will. Professionals, such as estate solicitors or probate researchers, have the knowledge and expertise to navigate through the complex world of Wills and estates. Most Wills in the UK are written using a solicitor or Will writer, who stores the original Will.

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Professionals can also help you gather other documents, such as pension details and insurance policies, which may be needed later.

They have access to specialised databases and resources and can leverage these to conduct thorough searches and locate the Will you are looking for. This includes conducting geographically targeted searches for unregistered Wills among law firms and professional will writers from specific organisations.

Following Legal Procedures and Requirements for Important Documents

Navigating the legal maze of procedures and requirements is essential for ensuring a smooth and successful search for valuable information about Wills and estates. Gather all relevant information about the deceased, such as their full name, date of death, and last known address. Ensure you have the Will Registration Certificate, which can be crucial for accessing the Will on the National Will Register. It is important to trace the original will to ensure the deceased’s final wishes are fulfilled.

Consult with a qualified solicitor who specialises in estate planning or probate law. Contact the local probate court or county clerk’s office for further guidance on the legal procedures and requirements, including obtaining a grant of probate from the Probate Registry.

Additionally, be aware of the methods and costs associated with searching and obtaining copies of probate records online.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the potential consequences of not finding a Will?

Not being able to locate a Will can result in complicated and contentious distribution of assets and property. Family members may dispute over entitlements, leading to lengthy and costly legal battles. The probate process can become time-consuming and expensive without a Will.

Can a Will be valid if it is not registered with any authority or institution?

Yes, a Will can still be considered valid even if it is not registered with any authority or institution. As long as the Will meets the legal requirements, such as being in writing, signed by the testator, and witnessed by competent individuals, it can still be recognised as a valid document.

How long does it typically take to search online databases and registries for a Will?

The timeframe for searching online databases and registries for a Will can vary depending on the availability and accessibility of the databases and the extent of the search. Advancements in technology have made it easier and faster to conduct these searches.

What is the average cost of enlisting the help of professionals to find a Will?

The average cost of enlisting the help of professionals to find a Will can vary depending on various factors such as the complexity of the search, the location, and the expertise of the professionals involved. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds for their services.

Is there a statute of limitations for finding a Will?

There is no statute of limitations for finding a Will. This means that you can search for a Will at any time, regardless of how much time has passed since the person's death. It is important to note that the process of finding a Will can vary depending on the circumstances and the jurisdiction in which the Will was created.

Key Takeaways

1. Seek Professional Help: Solicitors specialising in Wills and estates can provide valuable assistance in finding a Will.

2. Consult a Solicitor: It is recommended to consult with a solicitor specialising in estate planning or probate law to guide the search process and ensure compliance with legal requirements.

3. Contact Probate Court: Contacting the local probate court or county clerk’s office can provide helpful resources and guidance in the search for a Will.

4. Be Thorough: Thorough research, reaching out to individuals or organisations, and following up on leads are necessary steps to increase the chances of finding the desired Will.

Conclusion

Finding a Will is a crucial step in the process of settling the deceased person’s affairs. It is important to find the last will to fulfill burial wishes and properly distribute the estate. By exploring every corner of their home, checking safes or lockboxes, reaching out to their solicitor or bank, and following the appropriate legal procedures, you increase your chances of locating the Will.

Stay focused, be patient, and approach the search with determination. Your perseverance will help ensure that your loved one’s final wishes are carried out.