Looking to find the will of someone who has died? Learn how to find it if someone has one and where it's being kept.
Writing a will is essential for everyone, in every stage of life because they are the best way to honour the deceased's wishes and avoid family division. However, what happens if someone passes away and they haven’t told anyone where their original will is or you don’t know if they have one?
📣 Side note: Get a will. Tell someone. Keep it safe.
If you find yourself in either of these situations, you need to know where to start with your search.
Let’s start with one word.
Probate is the process of managing and distributing assets left by the deceased. It is required when the person who died, owns property (in most cases), or a bank or financial institution asks for a grant of probate.
If there is a will and probate needed, then the executor needs to apply for this. So, applying for probate is applying for the legal right to settle or deal with someone’s estate. 🏠
Probate is not always needed, but finding the will is almost always necessary. If you don’t know where someone’s will is, we'll tell you where to start looking.
Let's get practical now and show you the ways to find a will, whether before or after probate.
How to find a will without probate
If the will was entered into probate records, finding it is usually a simple application process. Registered wills are much easier to locate than non-registered wills.
If the will was not entered into probate, then you can look in a few other places to find it.
Look in the deceased's home for letters to and from solicitors, banks, and other documents
Many people write a will and keep it close to them, usually in a safe place with their other important documents. They may have a safe, a filing cabinet, or a special document folder. Even if you don't find the will, you may find clues about where they stored their will.
The deceased's bank may have records of their will, their solicitors, or even a bank deposit box with a legally valid will inside! (although not the best place to store a will. 🙃
Of course, looking through someone's home after the person died can be traumatic and difficult, especially if they were a spouse, civil partner, or family member. If you think you will find this difficult to do, ask someone to support you.
If you know the person used a local solicitor, check if they have the will. If they do not, you could ask other solicitors in the local area.
In some cases, the solicitor may have gone out of business. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA website) stores thousands of registered wills for this very reason.
Speak to the friends and family of the deceased
Friends of the person who passed away may know some of the business details or even know where the original will is located. They may have details about the solicitors the deceased used.
You could contact the doctor or GP
The GP is unlikely to have the will, but they may have some record of contact details for the solicitor or testator. This isn't a highly likely route any longer, but it may be effective for some older wills.
National Will Register.
The National Will Register contains details of millions of wills. You can search this register two main ways: Will register search: a will registration certificate was found or you believe the will was registered (£45.60 charge)
Will search combined: they do 3 searches for registered and unregistered wills (£114.00 charge)
How to find a will after probate
If the estate has been entered into the probate registry, then finding it will be much, much easier. There are several different probate service contact points depending on which country you are searching in.
Please note that you can also create a standing search in the probate registry of most countries. This means the search service can alert you if a will is entered into the principal registry up to six months after you create the search.
Let's take a quick look at how to contact the probate department in the countries of the UK.
How to find the will of a deceased person online in England and Wales:
For England and Wales, you simply need to search the probate records. If the will is with a solicitor, you will only be able to see it if you are listed as an executor. A grant of probate is usually required before the estate can be settled. If you are not the executor of the will, then you can pay a fee to search the probate registry. You can do this online and it costs £1.50 for every copy of a probate record that you request. You can also fill in a PA1S form and search for a probate record by post.
When you carry out a search for probate records, you need to know the following details for the person who has died:
- Full name
- Date of death
- Last known address
Finding a will in Scotland 🏴
If you are trying to find a will in Scotland, you can search the Registers of Scotland online. If the will is not registered, there is no charge for this service. If you do find the will and want a copy, the cost is currently £16 + VAT for a plain copy and £30 + VAT for an extract. If you are looking for a will from before 15 March 1993, you should search the National Records of Scotland instead.
Finding a will in Northern Ireland
If you need to find a will in Northern Island, you should check the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) online.
Finding a will
As mentioned, there are a few ways to find a will. But at Bequest, we don’t believe you should have to go searching. We help people write their wills online and love to give you extra protection of storing it for you. There are 3 different options for a will with us, each with perks of their own. ✍️
And so you’re clear, only those who live in England and Wales can currently get wills with Bequest. So if you live full-time in one of those areas, set up an account and get your free will today! 🎉
How do you find the will of a deceased person?
You can begin by searching probate records in the country where the death certificate is registered. This is the easiest method in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. If the documents are missing, then you may need to find the will writers or solicitors the deceased used.
How do you find out if a will exists?
There are four steps you can take to find if a will exists or if one has been lost:
- Search the deceased's home as your first port of call. Many people store their will in a document file or safe in their home.
- If the will is not in the home, try to locate and ask their solicitor, if they used one. They may have used a will writing service, so these can be checked as well.
- Another option is to check with their bank for more information. The bank may have secure storage with some of their paperwork.
- The final step is to check the probate or will register in the country where the death certificate was filed. If none of these options produces results, you can ask for advice from a solicitor.
Can you see people's wills online?
Yes, many wills can be viewed online after the person has died. If the will was entered into probate, then it will become a matter of public record. Once the search money has been paid, you can apply to receive a copy through one of the services we mentioned above.
Are wills of public record?
Wills and probate documents are public records, so they should grant you access with a successful application. Some wills are not entered into probate, so finding them may be a larger challenge. That document might be limited to the executor of the will.