It’s essential to know where your Will is, because otherwise your wishes won’t be acted upon when the time comes.
There are times in your life when you’ll want to change your Will. Sometimes, though, finding the Will isn’t easy. In this article, we’ll run through places to look and things to try when it comes to locating it.
But first, how do you recognise your original Will?
The first thing to understand is that there is only one original version of your Will. A copy of your Will, or a digital scan, most likely won’t be accepted, at least not without a lot of stress and additional legal fees. Quite possibly not even then.
How to tell the difference? If it’s been a long time since you made your Will, here’s a brief reminder.
A valid Will:
Your original Will is a physical document (not digital) that is signed and dated by you and witnessed by two witnesses. By witnessed, it means that two people have added their signatures and written their names under their signatures.
Not a valid Will:
If you find a Will that hasn’t been signed, it is not valid. You might find versions that say “Draft” or “Copy” on it. Those aren’t the original Will. It’s standard practice to sign a draft Will to confirm you’re happy with it, but without signatures from two witnesses it does not count as a Will.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, here’s where to look:
The usual places
You’ll obviously start with all the obvious places, including your safe if you have one and then all the places you normally store documents. And then the attic if you’ve (inadvisedly) stored any paperwork up there.
You may come across a letter or other paperwork, including drafts and copies. Does it mention that the original Will has been put in storage? If so, the storage company may be different from the solicitor or Will Writer that made the Will. Phone or email the storage company to ask them.
If it doesn’t mention anything about storage, try the solicitor or Will Writer named on the documents. Sometimes solicitors go out of business, or retire, and are taken over by other firms that inherit all the old paperwork.
You may need to do some amateur sleuthing by phoning several solicitors in your area. Ask them if they know what happened to the solicitor and its files
Check emails (and Google)
Did you email someone to tell you where the Will was being kept? Did you email someone in your family? Email software like Gmail has an excellent search facility to look for old messages. Try a general search or search the Sent folder.
Perhaps you made your Will online or via email. If so, you should find some correspondence. You may have copied in an executor at the time, so ask them to check their emails too.
And although not everyone leaves online reviews, do you remember doing that? Try Googling your own name and “Will” or “Will Writing” and you might find a digital trace.
Check your diary
If you keep old diaries, or an online calendar, can you find a record of an appointment with a Will Writer or solicitor?
Ask your bank/insurance company/favourite charity
Organisations like banks, insurance companies and charities offer “free” Wills, typically at certain times of year. Did you take out any of these offers? You might have paperwork or emails from these bodies.
Ask executors, children and friends
If you can’t find it, did you give it to one of your executors? Ask them if they have it. If you have adult children, did you give it to one of them? Perhaps you have a closer relationship with one of them or one stayed with you around the time you made your Will.
If you still have no joy, ask other family members, and anyone else you might have named in the Will. These might include neighbours of the deceased or family friends.
Next, study the paperwork. Does it say the Will has been put in storage and mention the storage company name? Professional storage companies are often different to the company that wrote the Will.
Do you remember visiting a solicitor or Will Writer in the area, either for a Will or other documents like Lasting Power of Attorney? Try those firms too.
Check the National Will Register
There is no legal requirement for professionals to “lodge” Wills anywhere; no national Government database of all the Wills in existence that haven’t yet been read. Wills only become public documents after the estate administration has been sorted out.
The nearest thing to a database is the The National Will Register, which you can pay to search.
However, this is a subscription service for solicitors and Will Writers and not all of them use it. Still, it’s worth trying if you haven’t located the Will by other means.
Ask Will Writing organisations
The Institute of Professional Willwriters and The Society of Will Writers could help by putting out messages to all of their members about lost Wills. Not all Will Writers are members of these bodies, though.
If you still draw a blank…
Remember that without the original Will, the rules of intestacy apply. Everything except jointly owned property would go to the spouse and/or blood relations in fixed amounts.
So if you draw a blank, you should make a new Will. Click the button below to request a callback to discuss your requirements.