WHERE’S MY WILL?
Imagine this scenario: you diligently make a Will to ensure that your affairs are in order when the end comes; you don’t want there to be any misunderstandings among your children after you’ve gone, and your wishes are clearly set out (after all, misunderstandings can happen where money is involved). But where is your Will kept?
I regularly advise clients who are bereaved, with a loved one having recently passed away, where they convinced that the deceased had made a later Will than the one which has come to light; perhaps there was a family fallout and the deceased altered their Will to ensure that those closest to them benefited. The client is certain that the deceased would not have wanted the earlier Will to stand because it includes a benefit for, let’s say, an estranged sibling. However, no one can find the later Will; there might even be a suspicion that the person, who stands to lose out by the later Will, has found and destroyed the Will, meaning that the earlier Will is the one which will be relied upon.
There is no compulsory national central register of Wills. On the client’s behalf, we can make enquiries of local law firms who might have acted for the deceased and there is a voluntary register against which we can search but we are searching for a needle in a haystack. However strongly the client believes there is a later Will, if it cannot be found, then from a legal perspective, it doesn’t exist.
So, if you have gone to the trouble of making a Will, tell your loved ones and let them know where the original is held. Even better, use the same firm of solicitors every time you want to alter your Will, because that consistent relationship with your lawyer minimises the chances of anyone arguing that the later Will is not valid (that is a whole different story!). Most solicitors will also hold your original Will free of charge for life; take advantage of that option because it eradicates the risk of the Will going “missing” after the deceased has passed away; it’s an unpleasant thought but it happens, more often than you’d think.
Head of Contentious Private Client
Giles Wilson LLP