You can usually find someone’s will with other important financial documents, such as bank statements and pension information. If you can’t find it in their house, you could search online to see if the will is recorded on the National Will Register.
Who can get a copy of a will?
The executors named in the will are responsible for applying for probate and dealing with the estate, so they should also be the ones who try to track down the will.
When someone writes a will with Farewill, we always advise that they tell their executors where they’ve stored it. This helps to make things much easier when they’re gone.
If you’re the executor of a will and weren’t told where the will is stored – or, they did tell you but the will is no longer there – there are a number of ways you can try to get a copy of the will.
How do I get a copy of a will before probate?
If you’re the executor of someone’s estate, you’ll need to track down the will before you can apply for a grant of probate. Here are a couple of places you can look:
Search the house
Most people choose to store their will alongside other important financial documents, such as bank statements, life insurance policies and pension information. You’ll need all of these anyway before you can apply for probate, so it’s worth collecting them up while looking for the will.
If the person who died had a study, safe or filing cabinet, you’ll likely find their financial documents there. Alternatively, you could try searching through other drawers around the house.
Contact their solicitor
If you know the person or company they made their will with, you could try contacting them to get a copy of the will. You could even try calling a number of different firms to ask if your loved one made a will with them.
Check with the probate registry
If you can’t find the will by searching the house or contacting local solicitors, you may be able to get a copy from the probate registry if the will was stored with them.
Why it's important to find the will
When someone writes a will, they set out wishes for what they want to happen after they die. This includes things like:
Appointing guardians for their children
Choosing who should look after their pets
Dividing up their estate between specific people
Donating money to charity
Writing funeral wishes to help you plan a fitting farewell
If they took the time to make a will, it’s important to do everything you can to follow their wishes.
What happens if I can't find the will?
If you’ve searched everywhere and are struggling to find the will, don’t worry. You’ll still be able to go through the probate process and sort out the estate. However, you’ll need to apply for a slightly different document – this is called a grant of letters of administration.
Depending on your specific situation, it may be someone else’s responsibility to handle the application. This is usually the next of kin of the person who died, such as their spouse or civil partner, but we’ll explain this in more detail below.
Who applies for probate if the will can't be found?
When someone dies without a will, they’re called ‘intestate’. This means that there are no legally-binding wishes setting out what they wanted to happen to their estate. So, instead, a set of laws come into play called the rules of intestacy.
The rules of intestacy define who inherits the estate when there isn’t a will – and it’s the person who stands to inherit the most who is responsible for applying for probate. We’ve listed who should apply for probate in order of priority below:
Spouse or civil partner
Children (or grandchildren if children have died)*
Siblings (or nieces and nephews over 18 if siblings have died)
Half-siblings (or nieces and nephews over 18 if half-siblings have died)
Aunts or uncles
Children of aunts and uncles (cousins)
Once the probate application has been approved by the government, the person named on the application will become the administrator of the estate. This gives them the right to close accounts, sell property and distribute assets following the rules of intestacy. You can find out more about how to get probate without a will.
*If children are under 18, an adult can apply on their behalf. This is usually a parent or someone else with parental responsibility.
How do I apply for probate with or without a will?
One of our probate specialists will talk through your situation and answer any questions you may have. We’ll also provide you with a free, fixed-price quote over the phone.
Once you’ve had time to collect up all the information about your loved one’s estate, we’ll arrange a 30-minute call to go through everything.
The probate and tax forms will then be prepared and sent to you for signing before being submitted to the probate registry for approval.
After everything has been approved by the government, your grant of probate or grant of letters of administration will be sent to you in the post.
If you don’t have time to value assets, sell property and deal with the estate admin yourself, or if the estate is particularly complex, you may be interested in our Complete Probate service.
Compared to quotes they’ve been given on the high street, our customers are often surprised at how affordable our Complete Probate service is – so it’s worth getting a quote when you’re on the phone. Simply give us a call today on 020 3695 2090 and we’ll take care of the rest.
The duties of an executor: executor of will checklist