How do I find out if my loved one left a will?
Finding someone’s will is not always as easy as it sounds, and there are certain steps which you should take to find a will. These steps will give you peace of mind that you have looked properly before concluding that there isn’t one.
How to find a will?
Follow the below steps until you are successful or you can conclude that it will probably never be found.
Search the person’s home
Although this sounds obvious, you should search the home carefully. Many people, if they wish to keep their will at home, will store the will in a safe place. Often, they do not remember to let anyone know where it is being kept. You may find it in a drawer, or cabinet, with other important documents, or even in the attic or under the bed. It has been known to find an original will in the garden shed. So, make sure to check everywhere you can think of!
Ask friends and family
A good friend or family member may have an idea of where an original will is likely to be kept. It may be with some personal belongings, or held with a Solicitor or bank.
Contact their Solicitor
You may know who the person’s solicitor is, or come across papers from solicitors or will writers. You should contact them first to see if they are holding the original will. Most firms will offer a document storage service if they have prepared the will themselves. You will usually need to provide a death certificate and some identification to show that you are an executor. Only then will the will be handed over to you.
Contact their bank
Similarly, some banks also offer a document storage service. Once you find out who the person banks with, contact them to see if they hold the original will. You will usually need to provide a death certificate and some identification to show that you are one of the executors, before the will is handed over to you.
Carry out a Will Search
There are various companies who will carry out a Will Search for you. This usually involves making a search of the National Will Register. A Search will also contact local firms of solicitors or will writers to ask if they hold the will.
You can also contact HM Courts and Tribunals Service, as they also offer a will storage service. They can be contacted on 0300 303 0648. If someone has lodged their will with the Probate Registry, they will have been issued with a lodgement certificate. You may find this at home with their papers.
What to do if you only have a copy of the will
You can still deal with an estate if only a copy of the will has been found. This copy must be a copy of the signed and witnessed original document, and not just a draft of the original.
You should seek legal advice on how to apply for Probate in this case. Alternatively, you can contact the Probate Registry directly for guidance.
What if I still cannot find a will?
If, after carrying out the above steps, you are still unable to find a will, the estate can be administered on the assumption that the person who has passed away did not leave a will. This is known as dying intestate. There is a strict order of priority of who can deal with the estate. Check out our guide to the intestacy rules here for more information: Rules of intestacy