Losing a loved one is never easy, and the process of settling their affairs can be a daunting task.
One crucial aspect of this process is locating the deceased person’s will, which outlines how a person’s assets should be distributed after their death and names executors who can manage this process.
Finding a will can be a challenging task, especially if the deceased did not share its location with anyone. In this article, we will provide guidance on what you will use the will for in the probate process, how to locate a will and what steps to take if a will cannot be found.
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When Do I Need to Find the Will By?
Locating the will as soon as possible is crucial as banks often require it to access the deceased’s accounts, which is a key step in determining the estate’s value and whether inheritance tax is due.
It is important to note that any inheritance tax must be paid within 6 months of the death to avoid penalties, and given that valuing the estate can be a lengthy and complex process, having access to the will as soon as possible can make this process much easier.
What Will I Use the Will For?
- To prove to a bank or any other institution which holds the deceased’s assets that you, as an executor, have a right to know the value of the assets at the date of death, and can be given access to other information such as bank statements which can be helpful when trying to find other assets or debts in the deceased’s name.
- To figure out which inheritance tax thresholds apply based on who inherits what.
- To include in the documents you send HMRC detailing the value of the estate (if needed).
- To apply for a grant of probate which allows you to distribute the estate (if needed).
- To distribute the estate according to the wishes of the deceased.
How Do I Know if a Will is Legal?
There is not a standard format for writing a will. In order for a will to be legal, the following conditions must have been met:
- The owner was 18 or over when they wrote it
- The owner must have been of sound mind and body when writing the will, and must have made it voluntarily
- It must be in writing
- The owner must have signed it in the presence of two witnesses over the age of 18 who do not stand to benefit from the will, and these two witnesses must have also signed it.
If you’re unsure a will is valid, for instance if the deceased’s marital status changed after the will was written, then enter your phone number below and one of our advisors from our free probate advice service will get back to you within 30 mins to discuss your options:
How Do I Find the Will?
There is not a standard way of storing a will, so there are a few places where it might be stored. Normally, the deceased will have told the executors where the will can be found, however that is not always the case. Here are some typical places where a will might be stored:
- At their house. Search for any paperwork or documentation they may have in filing cabinets or drawers.
- With a probate practitioner, such as a solicitor
- At the National Probate Registry in Newcastle - you’ll need the death certificate and evidence you’re the executor (from a copy, if you have one) https://www.gov.uk/search-will-probate Use the National Will Register https://www.nationalwillregister.co.uk/ - this will take 60 days, so if you think you will need to use this service, you should start this process immediately.
This Process is Taking a Long Time. What Do I Do?
If you need to use a service such as the National Will Register then you may have to wait 60 days for the will to be located.
In this instance, we advise that you spend any available time valuing any assets that don’t require you to have access to a will, for instance household goods, property and cars, so that you are in a good position to estimate the estate’s value.
There may also be third parties holding assets who don’t need to see the will, as each business will likely have their own policies, so find out who holds assets for the deceased and whether they will provide you with values without seeing the will.
There Are Lots of Wills, What Do I Do?
There may be a number of wills from different times in the deceased’s life. To apply for the grant of probate, you will need to use the most recent will, however it’s important to keep any other wills until probate is granted, in case the most recent will is not deemed to be legal.
I’ve Looked Extensively and Found No Will. What Should I Do?
If the person dies without a valid will then you can still apply for probate, however the laws of intestacy will determine how the deceased person’s assets will be distributed.
As there are no named executors, the closest living relative can apply to become the administrator of the estate. HMRC have a tool you can use to determine who the closest living relative is: https://www.gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will
If you are struggling to locate or read a will, our free service is here to help. We understand that this can be a difficult and overwhelming process, and we want to ensure that you have the support and guidance you need.
Our team of experts can provide you with advice and assistance on finding and interpreting wills, as well as guidance on the distribution of assets and property.
To take advantage of our free probate advice service, simply enter your phone number below. Our team is available to assist you and answer any questions you may have. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help – we are here to support you every step of the way.