Finding A Lost Will After Death
A will is an important document that will state what should happen to an estate once someone passes away. Once this document is signed, it needs to be stored somewhere. Not being able to find a will can cause huge problems so it’s important to know where to look for one.
Here we will look at the places you should check if you need to find a will. We will also look at what happens if one can’t be found.
Where you should look for a lost will
There are no legal requirements for a will to be stored in one specific space. Due to that, there are numerous places where a will may be held. Here we check the places you should be looking at.
Home – Some people will store their will at home and this is a good place to check first. It may be in a folder or drawer where the person kept all of their other documents. It’s best to look through all of their paperwork to see if you can find it. Someone may also keep their will in a safe which is a more secure solution. As you will most likely have to go through the entire house anyway, other places to check include an office, bedroom or perhaps the attic.
Solicitors – Perhaps the most common way of securely storing your will is with a solicitor and more often than not it will be the solicitor that they wrote the will with. Hopefully you already know the solicitor they used and this may be named on other documents. The executor of the will can easily gain access to it with the right identification.
Will writing service – As with a solicitor, someone may store their will with a will writing service if they helped them with it. Also as with a solicitor, if you’re unsure who is holding it then it may mean that you need to ring around a few different companies and ask them to check If they are holding it.
Probate service – People can also lodge their wills with a probate service. This is an official register and you can check with their local district probate registry to see if they have it stored. Taking a will out of storage is fairly simple for an executor if they do have it so this won’t be an issue.
Bank – A local bank is another place where some people store their will. If it has been stored in a safety deposit box then this would present a big issue. These boxes can only be opened after probate so if the will is with a bank, hopefully it’s in a general storage facility.
Storage – The will may be stored somewhere away from the home. Perhaps the deceased has a storage container that they had use of or even a garage. It’s good to think of any areas away from the home it may have been stored.
What happens without a will?
If you’ve exhausted all of these possibilities then you may have to accept that you’re not going to be able to find the will. If you can’t find it, then you’ll have to proceed on the basis of there never being a will and this will involve the rules of intestacy.
This involves the estate being left, or divided up between, their closest living relatives. This will start with married or civil partners and then will go down to children, grandchildren and so on and so forth until the closest living relative is found.
If you disagree with this then you can bring a claim under the Inheritance Act and argue a financial provision hasn’t been made that otherwise would have been. This, for example, is someone who was treated as a child of the deceased but not legally recognized that way, such as with a step-child. These challenges are rare as you have to prove that intestacy failed to make a reasonable financial provision for you.
Carrying out their wishes
It’s sad to say but when it comes to an estate without a will, your opinion doesn’t matter. If the deceased told you of their wishes but it’s not in writing, then that’s not going to hold any legal weight. If you feel as though a family friend, for example, would have received assets from the estate then this is irrelevant as far as the law is concerned.
The answer for many families is to simply sort it out between them and hope that everyone will act responsibly. If the person inheriting the estate through intestacy feels that someone deserved a part of the estate then they can do that off their own back.
Is finding a will important?
The importance of a will often depends on the value of the estate and how much it differs from the rules of intestacy. For example, if the deceased didn't have any assets to leave behind then it's not going to be as important. Also, if the will stated that their home will be left to their, spouse then this will have been covered by the rules of intestacy anyway.
Finding a will makes your life easier and allows the process to be much quicker. It’s worth putting in the extra effort to look in all the places it may be. Try and share the responsibility between family members as you may be able to find it more quickly that way.
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