When someone has died, it is important for the executors and family members of the deceased to establish if the said deceased had a Will. Ideally, the deceased in their lifetime will have made the family members aware of the existence of a Will and the executors aware of their position under said Will. Ordinarily, the Will will have been drafted by a firm of Solicitors and a copy sent out to the client for their own records, and the original safely stored with the Solicitor.
If no such conversation has taken place, the executors and family members will need to search through the deceased’s paperwork to see if there is a Will and thereafter check with the drafter (usually a Solicitor or in some cases a Will writing company) to see where the original is stored. If you find more than one copy Will in the deceased’s paperwork, it is the most recent Will that is the valid Will.
If you are an executor of a Will, any firm of solicitors will release either a copy Will or the original Will (depending on your instruction) if you provide them with the death certificate of the deceased and your own identification so that they can verify that you are indeed the executor. Some firms may charge a fee for this service.
If someone has died and an executor instructs a firm of Solicitors to administer the estate, they will often register the original Will with the Books of Council and Session for preservation and safekeeping. After this has been done, copy extracts will be available from the Books of Council and Session upon request. Additionally, if there is a Will and a Solicitor is required to apply for a Grant of Confirmation (more information on this process can be found here, at the deceased’s local Sheriff Court then upon the Grant of Confirmation being awarded, the Will becomes a public document and is thereafter available from the court. Both the Books of Council and Session and Sheriff Court will charge administrative fees for this service. The costs increase from time to time, but details can be found on their website.
Residuary beneficiaries are also entitled to see a copy of the Will and generally, the Solicitor acting in the administration of the estate will send them a copy of it at some point during said administration.
Unfortunately, there is no public, central database of Wills in Scotland, so if a Will cannot be found among the deceased’s paperwork or the deceased has made no previous mention of a Will being made, it is likely there is no Will at all. In this case, it would be advisable to check with local firms in the area to see if there is a Will or to see if a company like Finders can perform a Will Search on your behalf. If there is indeed no Will, then the estate has to be administered under the laws of intestacy. More information can be found on that process here.
How to Obtain a Copy Will in England & Wales
Much of the same principles outlined above apply to England & Wales, with some key exceptions:
In England & Wales, if a Solicitor is instructed in the administration of the estate, they do not apply for Confirmation; they instead apply for Probate (more information on this process can be found here, at the Probate Registry. Once Probate has been granted, the Will, as above, becomes a public document and is thereafter available from the Probate Registry for a nominal fee.
Unfortunately, there is no public, central database of Wills in England & Wales either. However, in England & Wales, an executor or family member will have the additional option of contacting
(1) The London Principal Probate Registry who have a wills storage facility
(2) Certainty, who also keep a register of wills and can conduct a search of the register for you and
(3) Finders, who can perform a Will search on your behalf.
If a Will cannot be found among the deceased’s paperwork or the deceased has made no previous mention of a Will being made, it is likely there is no Will at all. In this case, it would be advisable to check with local firms in the area to see if there is a Will. If there is no Will, then the estate has to be administered under the laws of intestacy. More information can be found on that process here.
Knowing where to start in the administration of an estate can be a daunting process, but we have an extensive and experienced team that can provide advice and support for you at this difficult time. Please contact us at 0330 175 1234, ask to speak to Bereavement and we can get started right away.
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