Article written by Charlotte Mandy, Solicitor, Private Client department
The importance of having a Will
The latest research suggests that over 50% of adults in the UK do not have a valid Will which can result in a number of different problems when you die. Should you die without a valid Will, you will have died “intestate”. This means that your assets are distributed according to the Intestacy Rules, in a set order laid down by law. This order may not reflect your wishes and can be upsetting for those left behind, who see assets passed on perhaps to estranged family members. There have been many Court cases which centre on inheritance disputes, many of which could have been avoided had the deceased prepared a valid Will. A recent case involved a jewellery collection worth £150,000 as part of a £6 million fortune. In this particular dispute, the precious 31-piece collection was allegedly left to the niece of the deceased in a Skype call prior to the death. Having a valid Will means that your wishes are legally recorded and could avoid future emotional and financial struggles for your loved ones.
Finding a Will after death
If a loved one has died and you believe they may have left a Will, it is important to make every effort to locate it, especially if you think you may have been named as the personal representative responsible for administering the estate. The Will is the document which names who the creator (known as a testator) wants to deal with the administration of their estate. It sets out who the estate has been left to and may include the deceased’s funeral wishes.
The first step is to make enquiries to establish where the Will might have been stored. You should contact the testator’s family and friends, their professional advisors (such as solicitors and accountants), their banks and consider a Will Search with Certainty, which is the National Will Register.
When the Will can’t be located
If you are able to locate a copy of the signed Will but not the original version, it may still be possible to use this provided there is no evidence to suggest it had been revoked or destroyed. The copy will need to be sent to the Probate Registry with an application for a Grant of Probate. The Executor will also be required to send a sworn document stating the original cannot be found and giving details of the attempts they have made to locate it. If there is evidence to suggest there was a Will which has been accidentally destroyed, it may also be possible to recreate provided there is enough evidence to show what the testator’s wishes were, which we can advise on.
If neither the Will nor a copy can be found or if you believe the deceased did not make a Will or had revoked their last Will, the estate will be administered and distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules.
How to store a Will so that it can be found
To avoid complications in estate administration, it is a good idea to ensure that your loved ones know where your Will is stored. If you instruct Grant Saw Solicitors to prepare your Will, we will store the original for you free of charge in our secure archive and provide you with a copy to keep with your papers. We also offer to register all the Wills we prepare with Certainty. In addition, we keep a detailed note of your instructions which can assist in any family dispute or proceedings in the event your original Will is missing or destroyed.
For more information on preparing a Will with Grant Saw Solicitors please email me or contact me on 020 8305 4231.