When someone dies, arrangements have to be made to administer their estate. This includes dealing with their house, bank accounts, investments and tax affairs, and ensuring that whatever they have left is correctly distributed to those entitled.
Many people leave a will, which is a document specifying their wishes in respect of the estate. The will firstly appoints an executor, who is the individual with the legal authority to administer the estate. The executor may have to obtain probate to carry out their duties in full.
- Search the house
It sounds obvious, but the first place to look is where the deceased person lived, as that is where most wills are kept. Popular places include a safe or locked drawers in the study, attic or the master bedroom. Although it is important for an executor to locate the will, it is still strongly advisable to seek agreement from the deceased person’s family before searching the house, to avoid any allegations of trespass.
- Ask your local District Probate Registry
Once a grant of probate has been issued, the will becomes a public document. You can search online for a probate record. This costs £10 and can take up to 10 working days.
- Ask their solicitor
If the deceased used a solicitor or other professional to write their will, it is possible that they would still be storing the will. So, if you are an executor, you will be able to obtain the will from them. If the solicitor is no longer in business, contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority. This organisation holds records for solicitors in England and Wales. It should have a record of who took over the solicitors practice and, ultimately, where the will is now.
- Check the Certainty website
Certainty is a National Will Register in the UK. It has records of where wills are stored, and is able to carry out searches on your behalf, although it does not actually store copies itself. If a will is found, the solicitor who holds it will contact you and advise on the next steps required.
- Ask the bank
If you are the executor of the estate, you could ask the deceased’s bank for a copy of the will. The bank will usually ask for the death certificate and proof of your identification before giving this to you.
What if I cannot find the will?
First, it is not always necessary for an executor to administer an estate. For example:
- The estate is made up of just cash
- The property is joint property
- (If you need a third one, suggest: If the deceased person’s spouse or children have already been nominated to receive assets such as a pension payment or life policy)
Second, if you are unable to find a will, it is possible that that the deceased did not make one; in which case, the estate would usually be administered by the next of kin under the rules of intestacy.
Administering someone’s estate can be a time-consuming and complex process, more so as research indicates that about 60% of adults admit to not having a will.
If you are looking for the will of a loved one and not having much success, it is always best to seek the advice of an experienced professional who can give you the right help and support you need.
Call Co-op Legal Service now for help and advice on how to manage an estate after someone dies. Call 01618558359 or contact us online and we will help you.