What happens if a Will can’t be found after someone’s death?
Locating a Will after someone passes away is not always easy. If you believe that the deceased made a Will, you should do all you can to find it. We offer some tips for locating a missing Will post death as well as advice on what to do if a will can’t be found.
The deceased’s papers may contain information about whether they made a Will and, if they did, where this is stored.
There are several common options for storing a Will. Firstly, it could be stored with the legal representatives who dealt with the drawing up and executing of the Will. This is a popular way to keep a Will safely and makes locating a Will relatively easy. The deceased will have received written confirmation regarding the storage of the Will. Any correspondence of this sort is likely to be with your loved one’s important papers. Alternatively, you can contact the firm you believe they used or local firms in the area to make enquiries.
If the company they used has since closed down, then you can contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority. They will make sure that any Wills held by the firm are retained safely, so you can check with them. In addition, they will also have information in respect of firms that have merged or been taken over.
You may also try the National Will Register. A comprehensive list of Wills registered by over 8 million individuals.
The Principal Probate Registry stores some Wills and you should also enquire there.
Finally, the deceased’s bank may hold the document.
Using a copy Will
Occasionally, it is possible to send a copy of an executed Will to the Probate Registry if the original cannot be found. A sworn affidavit would need to accompany the copy Will, explaining how the Will has been lost. Also needed would be details of the efforts made to trace it.
Information about who would benefit from the deceased’s estate if the copy Will is not proven will need to be provided.
Should evidence point to the deceased having kept the Will, then the Probate Registry will presume that they have revoked the Will by destroying it. Any evidence to the contrary, can be used to try and rebut this assumption.
In addition any information about the deceased’s state of mind in respect of their Will, to include conversations with others and actions taken, can be used to establish whether it was intended that the provisions of the copy Will should take effect.
If no Will can be found and the deceased’s intentions cannot be established, then the Rules of Intestacy will be used. These rules dictate who inherits an estate when there is no Will.
The first person to inherit under the rules is the deceased’s spouse or civil partner. They are entitled to all of the deceased’s personal possessions plus the first £270,000 of their estate. Secondly, if the deceased had children, the remainder of the estate is split between them. Their spouse or civil partner receives half and the children share the other half equally between them.
In the case of no children, then the spouse or civil partner inherits everything. If the deceased had no spouse or civil partner but did have children, the children will share the estate.
If the deceased did not have a spouse, civil partner or children, then the next category of relative to inherit is parents. Following this is siblings, if there are no parents living. Usually it is the case that someone who is entitled to inherit will make the application to the Probate Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration. This document gives legal authority to an individual to deal with the estate administration.
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