Detailed Guide On How To Find A Will When Someone Dies
Simply put, a will is a legal document that puts your wishes after you pass away into law. Some people die without one and others may pass away without leaving much instruction on where their will can be found. It could also be that you feel the need to challenge the executor about the contents of the will.
It's important to know how to find out if someone has a will, how to find a will and how you can view a will. Whether it's next of kin or someone else In this guide, we'll go through all those questions in more detail.
How do I find out if there is a will?
If you need to try and find a will immediately after death then you'll have to look in a few key locations.
Hopefully the deceased has been organized about where they have left important documents. Many people will have a folder or file where they store key information. If the will itself isn't there then hopefully there is a letter to indicate which solicitor helped write the will.
It's most likely that you'll need to do go through their documents regardless to deal with the likes of utilities, mortgage etc. This should be your first port of call but it's important to note that this can be very emotionally stressful.
While you technically can write your own will, the vast majority of people will use a solicitor to write up a will. It's almost certain that this solicitor has a copy of the will stored on their records and you'll be able to obtain this from them if you're the executor with a death certificate and identification.
If you're not sure what solicitor has been used then try and find any documentation of them using a solicitor for anything else, as it's likely they have gone back to the same one. If not, then it may simply be the exhaustive step of contacting the most local solicitors to see if they have the records.
National Wills Register
This may seem like the obvious place to start, it's not mandatory that every will is registered on their database and therefore it's not a certainty. You also have to pay a fee to search for a will which can be inconvenient when trying to settle affairs.
These wills are registered by solicitors and are a good final port of call but there is a good chance it's not going to be on the system and obviously if no will was ever made, you are going to be looking for something that isn't there.
Finding a historical will
If a grant of probate is given then there will be a record of the will stored by the government. Not every will requires a grant of probate, however, such as if it is only a small estate or all of the assets are jointly held with another.
If a Grant of Probate has been given then you'll be able to find the will on this government website if you're in England or Wales, with only a very small fee required. These records usually appear around two weeks after probate has been granted. In Scotland, you'd have to contact the Sheriff Court and in Northern Ireland, it would be the Public Record Office.
What happens if someone dies without a will?
So you've exhausted all the avenues and you're now fairly certain they didn't have a will. This is referred to as dying intestate and it's then assumed that the estate would be administered by the next of kin. For most families, they can sort these matters out quickly and efficiently.
There are times where someone can make a claim about the deceased wishes and this may end up in court, which can hopefully be avoided. You'd have to make an application for a grant of probate, which can be contested if someone disagrees with it.
Is a will important?
If someone dies unexpectedly then you're never going to truly know what their wishes were without a will. Some family relationships are quite complicated and in these situations, not having a will can make the whole process a lot harder.
Say, for example, your sole remaining parent dies and you have siblings, then the estate would be split equally between you if there was no will. For plenty of families, this status quo is accepted and no further legal steps would need to be taken. Any costs of dealing with the estate can be taken from it before it's divided.
Dealing with an estate without a will, however, always takes longer which is why a will is going to make your life easier if you're going to be the one administering an estate. While it's important to try and find a will, you should be able to resolve the state fairly easily without one.
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