How to find a will before probate
Search their home
If you have access to the person's home you should check through any documentation kept at the property as they may have chosen to store their will in a safe place. You might also be able to find correspondence from solicitors or will writers if they had professional help to create their will.
Contact local solicitors
If you cannot find any evidence of a will in the person's home, your next step should be to contact solicitor firms that are in the local area. Many people choose to use the same solicitors to write their wills that they had used for other legal services in the past.
If the solicitor confirms that they have the will and a grant probate has not been applied for, they will only let you see it if you are named as an executor. Should they confirm that probate has been granted, you will need to follow the instructions in the sections below.
Check the National Will Register
You can use the National Will Register online service to conduct a Certainty will search of over 9.4 million registered wills to find out where it is stored. Usually, solicitors and will writing services will register a will with the National Will Register so that there is proof that one exists and is easily traceable.
A basic search of the register will cost you £45.60 but it could save you a lot of time and effort compared to contacting firms individually. There is also a more extensive search service offered that costs £114 and includes:
- A will register search
- A REACH search - this will target wills that have not been registered by law firms and professional will writers
- Place a notice on the Missing Will Notice Board that is issued to The National Will Register member solicitors
If a positive match is made using the Certainty search service or via a REACH search, the law firm or will writing service that holds the will are notified and you will then need to provide them with proof of identification and a copy of the death certificate. Once this has been confirmed, you will then be able to arrange for the will to be sent to you.
How to find a will after probate in England and Wales
In England and Wales, once a grant of probate has been provided by the government a copy of the will can be seen by anyone that applies.
You can do this by visiting the gov.uk website and placing an order for a copy of the probate record which will include the will, if there is one. Usually, it can take around 14 days after probate has been issued for the new probate record to be added.
You will need the below information for the deceased person in order to search:
- Full name as it appears on their birth certificate
- Date of death
- Last known address
Each copy of the probate record ordered online will cost you £1.50. You can also apply via post by completing a PA1S form for the same cost but responses can take up to 4 weeks.
You can also use the online service to check if probate has been issued as well as the type of probate that was granted. As not all probate records contain a will you should check the type of grant of representation when you carry out your search. The grant types that contain a will include:
- ‘Probate’ or ‘Grant and Will’
- ‘Admon with Will’ or ‘Grant and Will’
Records that are labelled with ‘Administration (Admon) or Grant’ will not contain a will.
Note: If the person died within the last 6 months then probate may have not yet been granted. In this case, you can set up a ‘standing search’ which will cost you £3 and can be extended after 6 months.
How to find a will in Scotland
In Scotland, there is a slightly different process to follow when searching for someone's will. If the person died between 1926 and 1999, you will need to search the records available in the Calendar of Confirmations that are held by the National Register of Scotland (NRS) If the death was after 1999 you will need to contact the Commissary Department of the Edinburgh Sheriff Court to try and locate the will.
How to find a will in Northern Ireland
If you are trying to find a will for a person that has passed away in Northern Ireland, you can search probate records that are held by The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). You can use the online service to search will calendars if you are looking for entries for someone that has passed away between 1858 to 1965 (depending on region). For anyone that has passed away more recently, you will need to make an appointment at GRONI’s publicly available search room.
Need help with probate?
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