How to Apply for Probate if the Original Will Has Been Lost
24 May 2017
Finding the Original Will
When you make an application for Probate to the Probate Registry you must submit the original Will to be proved.
We recommend that a thorough search of the deceased person’s paperwork is done to locate a Will, or to locate any reference to a Will being held by a law firm or Will writing services company.
In England & Wales there is no central register of Wills and sometimes the firm of Solicitors which drafted the Will has either closed down or been taken over. This may make it difficult to find the original Will, if at all.
If you know that the Will was made by Solicitors and it was not revoked, you can contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Intervention Archives department. When the Solicitors Regulation Authority close down a firm, they take all the documents and papers that relate to its clients, and so the SRA may be able to locate the original Will for you.
Other options include contacting the London Principal Probate Registry who have a Wills storage facility. In more recent years a company called Certainty have started to keep a register of Wills and can conduct a search of the register for you.
What if I Find a Copy of the Signed Will?
If your search for the original Will is unsuccessful but you have located a signed copy of the original Will, you may be able to submit a copy to be proved by the Probate Registry.
To do this, documentation must be submitted to the Probate Registry who will consider the paperwork and either give permission for you to prove the copy Will, or refuse permission. The Probate Registry will confirm their reasons should they refuse permission, or they will request further evidence from the Executor.
When making the application, the Executor/s must submit an Affidavit, which is a written statement confirmed by Oath or affirmation. The Affidavit must confirm, in detail, the circumstances relating to the loss of the original Will, the attempts that the Executor has made to locate it, together with details of anyone who would benefit from the Estate if the copy Will was not proved (i.e. someone who would benefit under the Rules of Intestacy.)
In some circumstances the Probate Registry may require evidence from those beneficiaries who would not inherit if the copy Will is proven to obtain their consent to prove the copy Will.
As an Executor of a Will you must do all that you can to prove the Will with the Probate Registry.
What if I Cannot Find the Original or a Copy?
If you have exhausted all options to locate the original or copy Will and neither can be found then the Estate will need to be administered in accordance with the Rules of Intestacy.