My father has passed away and I can’t find his Will. What should I do?

The death of a parent is devastating. And if you’re the executor of their Will, or you stand to inherit, you have the added stress of sorting that amongst their affairs. Unfortunately, Wills aren’t always kept in a safe or obvious place. If a Will is lost, here are some practical steps you can take.

My father’s Will is lost. Is there a way to find it?

There are several avenues to try if you are trying to locate a lost Will.

  • If you know which solicitor or will writer made the Will, they may have the original or a signed copy in their files. Even if you’re not sure which solicitor the deceased used, it’s worth contacting local firms to ask.
  • If the solicitor has since closed down, it’s a little more complicated, but you may still be able to locate the Will. Try the Solicitors Regulator Authority, who will be able to tell you which firm took over from them.
  • Some people keep their Will at their bank. Contact them to find out.
  • Certainty, the National Will Register, is endorsed by the Law Society, and can be used to search for a Will. This can be done whether or not the Will was registered with the service at the time it was made, but there is a charge for the search.

I have a copy of the Will but not the original document. Is this enough?

When a Will is made, one or more copies are often produced. While a copy of the Will is useful to let you know of your loved ones wishes, in most cases only the original Will is legally binding.

If the original Will cannot be found, it may be assumed the deceased has destroyed it (thus revoking the Will). It’s also possible that there may be a later Will in existence, which might go against the wishes outlined in the copy you have. For these reasons, a person whose original Will is lost is usually treated as dying intestate.

In some rare cases, you can apply to the Probate registry to admit a copy of the Will, rather than the original document. A solicitor specialising in Wills and Probate can advise you on this.

What if my father’s Will has been damaged or destroyed?

A Will can be damaged or destroyed:

  • by accident (for example, in a fire)
  • intentionally, if the person who made it has changed their mind about its contents.

If it has been destroyed intentionally, then it is automatically revoked, which means it’s not valid, and if no other Will is found, your father has died intestate.

If a Will has been destroyed by accident, you may be able to submit evidence of the Will’s contents to the Court.

The rules of intestacy

A person who has not made a Will, or whose Will has been destroyed, will be treated as dying intestate. This means that the person’s estate will be administered according to a defined set of rules, which determine who inherits. If your father has died intestate and was married or in a civil partnership, his partner or spouse will inherit the first £250,000 of his estate, plus half of anything that remains. If there is no surviving partner or spouse, you and any other siblings will split the estate between you.

What can I do next, and how can a solicitor help?

At Hepburn Delaney, we are experts in Wills and Probate. We can help you to:

  • Locate a lost Will
  • Apply to the Probate registry to admit a copy of the Will, if you don’t have the original
  • Submit evidence of the contents of your father’s Will, if it cannot be found.

For more information or to arrange a meeting with one of our solicitors, contact us on 01442 218090.