If a family member or close friend dies, you may be unclear as to whether you are named in their Will or you may wish to find out who benefits from their estate so that you can decide whether to contest the Will.
Option 1 – Ask the executor
Ask the executor or the deceased’s solicitor. All Wills are eventually made public, so the solicitor or executor has little to gain by keeping anything from you. All beneficiaries have a right to know they are a beneficiary.
In the case of disputed Wills, the solicitor or Will writer has to make a copy of the Will and all relevant documents available.
Option 2 – Lodge a standing or probate search
If you cannot find a copy of the Will, or do not know who the executor is, you can apply to any probate registry in England and Wales to lodge either a standing search or probate search.
All Wills or letters of administration (if the deceased died without a Will) are made public when a grant (the document confirming the legal authority given to the personal representative) is applied for.
There are two types of search:
This is a search of the last 12 months of the probate register and is the most appropriate search if the death was recent or a grant was not applied for promptly.
A standing search is a simple form which needs to be completed providing details of the deceased, including their full name, last address and date of death, together with details of the person lodging the standing search. Once the Standing Search form has been completed it needs to be sent back to the probate registry with a fee of £6.
General probate search
This is a search of the probate register and is more appropriate when dealing with cases where the death was more than 12 months ago.