Is there a will?
The first question that you, as next of kin, must ask is whether the person who has died made a will. If you think there is a will, you need to locate it as a matter of utmost priority.
If you know that there is no will, please go to the separate section; If there’s no will.
Searching for the will
The will might have been kept somewhere safe at home, or with the deceased’s solicitor or bank. The other place where people store their will for safekeeping is at the Principal Registry of the Family Division of the High Court, or at one of the District Registries or Probate Sub-Registries.
If the will is being kept by a solicitor, a bank or a probate registry then you will need to provide proof of your identity and also a copy of the death certificate to prove that the death has occurred before they will release a copy of it.
Once you have the will you need to make sure that it is the most recent one that the deceased made. It is very important to avoid any confusion on this. (For this reason all previous wills should be destroyed when a new will is made.)
Handling the will
The will is an important document and should be handled with considerable care. Once found, you should keep it in a safe place and, if possible, take some copies.
You must be careful not to remove any fastenings on it, attach any paper clips, write on it or indeed amend it in any way as any such action may bring its validation into question.
Requirements for a valid will
You also need to check that the will is valid. For a will to be valid it must comply with the following requirements:
1. The will must be an original document. A photocopy is not acceptable.
2. All documents referred to in the will must be available.
3. The will must show no signs of tampering or alteration. Any marks even those from a missing paper clip or pin can render the will invalid.
4. The will must be signed and dated by the testator (this is the person who made the will).
5. It must be signed and witnessed by two witnesses who are not beneficiaries under the will.
6. The will must appoint executors to administer the estate. If executors have not been appointed then the ‘partial intestacy rules’ will apply. For further information on these rules please see the separate section on probate.
7. The will must dispose of the whole of the deceased person’s estate. If beneficiaries have died before the person who made the will and no substitute provision has been made in the Will for this event then the Will is not effective for the entire estate. In this case the partial intestacy rules apply.
8. Finally, as marriage renders an existing will invalid, the will must not predate the date when the deceased person married. The exception to this rule is that a will written in contemplation of marriage will be valid.
Informing the executors
When the will is found, the first task is to identify who has been named as the executors (usually there will be more than one).
The executors have been given the responsibility of sorting out the deceased’s affairs. It is likely that you, as next of kin, will have been made one of the executors.
The information which we provide through Lasting Post is in outline for information or educational purposes only. The information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a solicitor, accountant or other professional adviser. We cannot guarantee that information provided by Lasting Post will meet your individual needs, as this will very much depend on your individual circumstances. You should therefore use the information only as a starting point for your enquiries.