A step that often causes family members additional stress and anxiety when someone dies is locating the deceased’s important documents. This includes the Will, which details the Testator’s wishes regarding how they want their estate to be distributed. 
Unfortunately, locating a Will and other important documents can sometimes be a difficult and time-consuming process for loved ones coming to terms with a death. 
This blog answers frequently asked questions about locating the Will to help you navigate this stressful time. The blog explores how to find a Will, what happens if you can’t find a Will, and the benefits of storing estate planning documents with a professional storage provider. 

What is considered an important document? 

When trying to locate a Will, there are other documents that you should also keep an eye out for. At the stage of locating a Will, you may already have possession of the birth, marriage, and death certificates, as these would have been required/distributed at the point of registering the death. 
Other important paperwork that you should consider gathering are pension details, insurance policies, and bank and/or building society accounts. Whilst you may not need these documents at the time of locating a Will, you will likely need them later down the line if applying for a Grant of Probate in England and Wales. Once you have located these documents, it’s a good idea to keep them in a safe place for ease of access when needed. 

How do you find a Will? 

There is no legal requirement for a Will to be registered online, professionally stored, or to be disclosed by its Testator. However, it is recommended for Testators to discuss its contents and location in advance with their chosen Executors. 
So, how do you find out if someone has left a Will? There are a few steps to take when locating a copy of someone’s Will: 
1. Search the deceased’s property 
As an initial step, try to search the deceased’s property to find a Will. It might be filed away in a draw with other important documents (such as those listed above) that will be useful later down the line. It’s worth considering that going through the belongings of the deceased can be emotionally difficult and stressful, so seek support from someone you know to help you with this process. 
If you can’t find a Will, keep an eye out for details of a Solicitor, Will storage company, or a Certainty Will Registration Certificate. If a Certainty Will Registration Certificate is located, this means it can be found on the National Will Register. 
2. Ask Solicitors and Will Writers local to the deceased 
If your search of the property is unsuccessful and you’re unsure of who the deceased may have used to draft or store their estate planning documents, try contacting Solicitors and Will Writing companies local to the deceased. Be aware that only the Executor will be able to obtain documents if they are held by a legal professional or Will Writer. 
3. Contact the deceased’s bank 
Wills and other important documents can also be stored with banks. If searches with Solicitors and Will Writers in the area have failed, try contacting the deceased’s bank (if known) to ask if they are storing the Will. However, be aware that banks are often reluctant to speak to anyone other than the Executor of the estate. 
4. Will database 
The National Will Register is essentially a Will database with currently around 9.4 million Wills stored in the system. There are three search options available, and prices start at £58.80 (as of April 2024) for a Will Register Search. However, it’s important to consider that there is no guarantee of locating an existing Will, and only the Executors will have visibility of the Will’s contents. 

What happens if you can’t find a Will? 

If the above steps to find a Will are unsuccessful and you are confident that it’s non-existent, the estate will need to be administered under the rules of intestacy. When an estate is declared intestate, it must be distributed following the rules dictated by law in the country where the deceased was domiciled. These rules are different in England and Wales to Scotland. 
In intestacy cases, the person who is responsible for administering the estate of the deceased is known as the Administrator. Similarly to an Executor, an Administrator has the legal and financial responsibility to administer the estate and is usually the next of kin. However, instead of a Grant of Probate, the Administrator will apply for what is known as Letters of Administration. 

Why should I professionally store my Will? 

If you are currently in the process of estate planning, the easiest way to ensure that your Will is accessible upon your death is to store your estate planning documents with a professional storage provider. There are various benefits to utilising a storage provider, such as: 
Peace of mind that your Will is easily accessible 
Availability of the latest version of the original Will for your Executors 
Availability of relevant codicils and letters of wishes 
Reduced risk of family conflict 
If charities are mentioned, they will receive their inheritance 
The estate can be administered as you have planned for 
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