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Does a Will Become Public after Death?

8th August 2017

If Probate is needed after your death, the Will that you have in place at the time of your death will become a public document and anyone can apply for a copy. This might affect the way you go about writing your Will. 

However, there is a way round this, see Letter of Wishes below.

For initial advice and guidance call Co-op Legal Services on 03306069591 or contact us online and we will help you.

When Does a Will become Public?

When someone dies, it’s necessary to find out whether Probate is needed. This will determine if a Will becomes public after death.

Probate is the legal process where the Court recognises the authority of someone to administer a deceased person’s ‘Estate’. Generally speaking, your Estate is everything you own at the time of your death, such as savings in the bank, property, vehicles and other personal possessions including pets.

Probate may not be required if your Estate is worth very little. But if Probate is required, the Executors of your Will may not be able to start dealing with your assets which are held by organisations (like banks, building societies, share registrars etc) until a Grant of Probate has been obtained.

In order to get a Grant of Probate, the Executors must do a number of things such as identifying what assets and liabilities exist in the Estate and whether any taxes need to be paid. They would then prepare and submit certain forms and documents to the Probate Registry – including the Will that you have in place at the time of your death. This must be the latest and most up-to-date version of the Will.

Once the Will has been lodged with the Probate Registry, it becomes a public document and anyone can apply for a copy through the gov.uk website.

Only Wills that are sent to the Probate Registry become public. So the Will that is in place when you die becomes public, but any Wills that you have written previously will remain private.

If a Grant of Probate isn’t needed, your Will remains private between your Executors and the beneficiaries named within it.

A Letter of Wishes Remains Private

Knowing that your Will becomes a public document after your death might cause you some concern, as there may be things that you don’t want to become common knowledge. This might include the reasons why you’ve excluded a certain beneficiary or personal statements of affection.

However, there is a way round this, and that is to put a Letter of Wishes alongside your Will. A Letter of Wishes is a letter written by you, and can be addressed to your Executors, your beneficiaries or anyone else that you’d like to communicate your wishes or thoughts to after your death.

Unlike a Will, a Letter of Wishes is not legally binding and remains private. Therefore it’s an excellent way to express certain information, as you can rest assured that it won’t be placed in the public domain after your death.

It’s best to store your Letter of Wishes with your Will, as it makes it easier for your Executors to find. When you make a Will with Co-op Legal Services, we’ll store your Letter of Wishes alongside your Will, free of charge.

For a more detailed explanation of what a Letter of Wishes can do to help you and the Executor of your Estate, see What is a Letter of Wishes?

We offer fixed fee Wills and once we have provided you with a written quote for the agreed work, that price will not change.

For initial advice and guidance call Co-op Legal Services on 03306069591 or contact us online and we will call you.

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