When making a Will it is important to know where the original document is kept.
If a Solicitor has made your Will you may have been given the option to leave the original Will with your solicitor for safekeeping in their deed store department. If this is the case then you will most probably have received a copy of your Will and will have peace of mind that your original is Will is safe.
If a Will has been made some years ago maybe through your Bank, the Bank may have stored your original Will. You may have been issued with a receipt with a storage number and address where you can request the original documents from if needed. Once again your Will will be safe and you should have a copy.
In either of these cases what happens if:
Your firm of solicitors has closed
Your solicitors have been taken over by another firm and moved their offices
Your bank has amalgamated with another bank (this has happened in recent years)
The local branch of your bank has closed
Ideally you, as the client of either the solicitors firm or the bank should have been notified in writing of the changes which have taken place and be advised as to where your original Will is being stored.
We do not live in an ideal world unfortunately and often notification will not always be provided.
Therefore it is beneficial to ensure that you keep regular contact (maybe every year or two) with the business who is holding your Will. This will provide confirmation that they are still in existence and your original Will is safe.
To make enquiries about the whereabouts of the documents held by a firm of solicitors who have closed or moved their offices, it is beneficial to contact the Law Society who may hold the records of where the documents are or who took over the firm of solicitors. If this is not possible enquiries can also be made with other firms of solicitors who have offices in the local area as these may be questions often asked of them in the past or they have knowledge of the local area.
The banks may be more straightforward as they should have retained records as to where the Wills originally stored with them are held and it may be that they have outsourced to another company or a firm of solicitors.
Knowing the location of your Original Wills is important because if a Grant of Probate is required after death the original Will is needed. If the Will cannot be located and only a copy is held, there are many additional procedures which have to be followed to submit an application for a Grant of Probate of a copy of a Will. This can often be costly.
Even if a Grant of Probate is not required in the deceased’s estate, it is beneficial to ensure that you know where the original Will is. At this time only the Executors can request the original Will with a death certificate. The Original Will may never be needed again but if there is ever a claim to pursue on behalf of the deceased’s estate eg – medical negligence or a challenge to the payment of care home fees a Grant of Probate may be requested to permit the claim to proceed to settlement.
Therefore if one spouse has died, and a Grant of Probate is not required, the surviving spouse is advised to keep the Original Will with their own Will as it may be needed for such a claim, or to show who benefited from the deceased’s estate (for inheritance tax purposes).
If a parent or elderly relative has been in a care home and has privately funded their own care for several years, it may be once enquiries have been made that they were eligible for funding from the NHS. (There are specialist firms who undertake such claims). The original Will will be needed to apply for a Grant of Probate, even if the Will was made many years ago, if it was the original last Will made by the deceased relative it will still be valid.
Once again the knowledge of the location of the Original Will is essential.