To obtain Grant of Probate the Probate Registry will need to see the original Will. If a family believe that a Will has been made, but it cannot be found then there are a few ways to track its whereabouts.
In certain circumstances, the Solicitors Regulation Authority may be able to help track a Will if the legal firm which drew up the document has closed or merged. And, in some instances, Wills may have been stored in the Central Probate Registry in London. Certainty – the National Will Register – is another place where Wills may have been recorded.
If you need help to find a Will, Oratto has member probate lawyers who are skilled in this.
In very exceptional circumstances a copy of the Will can be used in the probate process, but the executor applying for probate will have to provide an affidavit (sworn statement) regarding details of how the Will was lost, what efforts have been made to trace the original document, and details of those people who will be prejudiced by the application – i.e those who would inherit under the rules of intestacy.
Unfortunately, if no Will can be found, the estate will be administered as if the deceased person had revoked the Will completely or had not made a Will in the first place.
The rules of intestacy clearly lay out who should benefit from an estate in the event that there is no Will or no enforceable Will and therefore no named beneficiaries.
Although the laws of intestacy are designed to address the imperfect situation of carrying out probate without a Will, there are still problems with the way these rules operate. For example, many probate solicitors believe that they are antiquated and fail to recognise the realities of twenty-first century families and relationships.
For example, intestacy laws allow only next-of-kin to administer or receive an estate. This means that couples who are co-habiting but not married or civil partnered lose out in the event of death. Cohabiting couples are the fasted growing family type in the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics, co-habiting families grew by 29.7% between 2004 and 2014.
This means that all of the following are not provided for by the rules of intestacy:
- Co-habiting partners
- Step children
- Step siblings
When carrying out probate without a Will, the Court must approve an application for legal administration of the estate, a Grant of Letters of Administration, before the process can begin.
The process of determining beneficiaries can be lengthy and complex; estate administrators should take great care to identify entitled parties as they may be financially liable for any loss sustained as a result of errors made during this process. As such it is best only for qualified probate solicitors to take the important steps required when carrying out probate without a Will.
Estates worth less than £10,000 and jointly owned estates
If the estate of the deceased is valued at below £10,000, and is not comprised of any land, property or shares, it may be possible to proceed without the Grant of Letters of Administration.
Similarly, if the estate is held in joint names, it may pass automatically to the surviving joint owner.
Help from Oratto
Oratto's member probate solicitors work across the full spectrum or Wills and estate administration work, including cases involving lost Wills, intestacy, or disputed probate.
Find the rated and reviewed Oratto specialist who is local to you by browsing through our member profiles. Alternatively, try our Match Service and let us help you find the probate lawyer best suited to your particular circumstances.