Locating important documents when someone dies: How to find a Will
Locating the important documents of somebody who has just died is often a cause of additional stress and anxiety for family members. The first and most important of documents needed at this time is the Will, which specifies how the estate will be divided after the Testator’s death. Locating a Will and other important Estate Planning documents can be time-consuming and stressful for loved ones dealing with a family member’s death.
This article will explore various ways to find the last Will, what happens if you can’t find it, and the benefits of storing important estate planning documents in a professional storage facility.
Related: Succession matters: How to have the “Talk” with your family
What is considered an estate planning document?
When it comes to estate planning documents, the Will is not the only document you should be able to locate easily. Birth, marriage, and death certificates are all required when a death is registered and, therefore, important documents to have to hand. Other important documents that will be needed during estate administration and probate are:
- pension details;
- life insurance – policy schedules, policy number etc. (often used to pay IHT bill);
- ownership certificates – savings and investments
- Property deeds;
- bank and/or building society account details;
- Loan/mortgage account number or statements.
Despite the fact that these documents may not be needed when finding a Will, you will almost certainly need them later down the road when applying for a Grant of Probate in England and Wales (or confirmation in Scotland). Keeping these documents in a safe place which can be accessed by Executors with relative ease is a good idea once you’ve located them.
How to find a Will?
There is no legal requirement for a Will to be registered online, stored professionally, or disclosed by its Testator. However, it is both sensible and prudent for Testators to discuss its contents and location with their chosen Executors.
Read below to find out if someone has left a Will:
Search the deceased’s property
If you haven’t been informed where the deceased’s Will is stored, you can start by searching the deceased’s last known residence to find it. It might be stored in a drawer or box with other necessary documents (such as those listed above) that may prove helpful in the future. Consider seeking support from someone you know to help you go through the belongings of the deceased, as this process can be emotionally challenging.
If you are unable to locate a Will
Look for details about a solicitor, a will storage company, or a Certainty Will Registration Certificate. Whenever a Certainty Will Registration Certificate is located, it means that the Will can be found on the National Will Register.
Contact local Solicitors and Will Writers
If you searched the property and didn’t succeed in locating the Will, and you’re unsure of who the deceased may have used to draft or store their estate planning documents, try contacting local Solicitors, and Will Writing companies and ask them if the deceased was known to them or if they had ever been engaged to prepare and store Wills for them. If the documents are held by a lawyer or Will writer, the Executor can retrieve them by visiting or sending a copy of their own identity document.
Contact the deceased’s bank
Banks also store important documents such as wills. If you’ve had no joy after that, there are still a couple more options to explore. You can contact the deceased’s bank to ask if the Will is stored with them. However, there is a tendency for banks not to speak with anyone other than the Executor.
There are currently around 9.4 million Wills stored in the UK’s National Will Register, which is a Will database. A Will Register Search costs £45.60 (as of 14 June 2022). You should keep in mind that finding the latest Will is not guaranteed, and only the Executors will have access to its contents.
Related: Your Estate Planning Checklist
What happens if you still can’t find the Will?
In the absence of a Will and with you confident that you have exhausted all obvious avenues available and that one does not exist, there is no alternative other than to have the estate administered in accordance with the laws of intestacy. The rules dictated by law in the country where the deceased resided must be followed when an estate is declared intestate. These rules are different in England and Wales compared to Scotland and in any other country.
In an intestacy case, the Administrator is responsible for administering the deceased’s estate. Administrators are legally and financially responsible for administering estates and are usually the next of kin. The Administrator, however, will apply for Letters of Administration instead of a Grant of Probate.
Related: What Exactly is an Estate?
Should I professionally store my Will?
Keeping your estate planning documents in a professional storage facility is the easiest and safest way to ensure they are accessible at the time of your death. Using a storage provider has a number of benefits, including:
- You can rest easy knowing that your Will is readily accessible
- The latest version of the original Will is available
- Availability of relevant codicils and letters of wishes
- Reduced risk of family conflict
- If charities are mentioned, they will receive their inheritance
- Your estate can be administered in line with your wishes
How can Soteria Trusts help?
Soteria Trusts is a trust and fiduciary services provider operated by the Business Class Group. Of the nine brands that make up the Business Class Group, three in particular offer services such as Will Writing, Will Storage, and Complete Estate Planning. Additionally, and if needed, we can recommend a reputable probate and administration partner in the UK (hopefully, after executing an Estate Plan with us, you won’t have to!).
Estate Planning and Inheritance Tax Mitigation Services
HMRC collected £5.9 billion in IHT last year, a lot of which could have been avoided with proper planning. That planning would allow your beneficiaries to receive the legacy you want them to follow your death, rather than the tax man becoming the single biggest beneficiary of your life’s work.
We can advise not only on the Will and Estate Planning matters but also present you with solutions that can minimise or eliminate the UK’s Inheritance Tax and which apply to anyone with UK assets with a value in excess of £325,000. IHT is chargeable on the excess for all UK assets, regardless of the owner’s nationality, and can be extended to worldwide assets subject to the time you’ve spent in the Uk and your domicile. At 40% IHT is one of the largest taxes collected, but with careful planning and the use of Government initiatives, it can be drastically reduced or mitigated in full.
Comprehensive financial planning
Planning for a financially stable future starts with a valid Will and ends with a tax-efficient retirement plan. Those two items go hand in hand and will definitely help reduce the stresses and strains that surviving family members find themselves under when insufficient planning has taken place.
Don’t leave anything to chance when it comes to legacy planning; contact us today and ensure that you, your assets, your legacy and your loved ones are adequately protected and don’t end up paying any unnecessary taxes. To learn more about our asset protection solutions, get in touch with us via the form below or call us on +852 2168 0626.