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Searching for a will
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Home / Further Information / Probate / Searching for a will

Searching for a will is not always an easy task. If you do not know where the deceased stored his or her will and good place to start looking is the deceased’s home.

Searching the deceased’s home

Many people use “do-it-yourselves” wills kits these days and if the deceased used such a kit in all probability the will is likely to have been stored by the deceased at his or her home.

Even if the will has not been stored at the deceased’s home there may be clues at his or her home as to where the will may be stored. If the will was prepared by a solicitor there may be correspondence indicating the whereabouts of the will. There may also be correspondence from the deceased’s bank indicating the whereabouts of the will.

Making enquiries with the deceased’s solicitors

If having conducted a search of the deceased’s home the whereabouts of the will is still not known enquiries should be made with the deceased’s solicitors where their identity is known.

When carrying out a search of the deceased’s home you may have come across correspondence between the deceased and his or her solicitors which will identify which solicitor or solicitors the deceased has instructed in the past. Enquiries should be made with any such solicitors.

Making enquiries with the deceased’s bank

Many wills are stored at banks and if having searched the deceased’s home and made enquiries with his or her solicitors the whereabouts of the will is still not known enquiries should be made with the deceased’s bank.

When carrying out a search of the deceased’s home it is more than likely that you will have found the deceased’s bank details which will enable you to identify which bank or banks you should contact.

Making enquiries with the Principal Registry of the Family Division

The Principal Registry of the Family Division, which is part of the High Court, is another place where wills are stored. You can check whether a will is stored with the Principal Registry of the Family Division by writing to them asking for a search to be made of the “safe custody wills register”. Your letter should be accompanied by an “official copy” (a copy provided by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages) or a “certified copy” (a copy which has been certified by a solicitor as being true) of the death certificate.

If the will has been stored at the Principal Registry of the Family Division you should ask them to send it to you by making an application to withdraw the will. An application to withdraw a will is made by completing a “withdrawal form” and sending it to Record Keeper’s Department at the Principal Registry of the Family Division with an official copy or a certified copy of the death certificate and the original “certificate of deposit”.

A withdrawal form can be obtained from the Record Keeper’s Department at the Principal Registry of the Family Division.

If you are unable to locate the certificate of deposit you should write to the Record Keeper explaining that you have carried out a thorough search but have been unable to locate the original certificate of deposit. In your letter you should also confirm that you will immediately forward the original certificate of deposit to the Record Keeper should you find it at a later date.

In most cases the Principal Registry of the Family Division will only release a will to the executors of the will.

If the forms have been filled in correctly and you are entitled to withdraw the will the Principal Registry of the Family Division will send the will to you by registered or recorded delivery post. You will be required to acknowledge safe receipt of the will by completing and returning to the Record Keeper’s Department an “acknowledgment of receipt form”.

What if the will cannot be found?

If the will cannot be found, the law will presume that the will was never written in the first place and the deceased’s estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy.


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