Did you know that your original signed Will is the only valid document?
The probate registry (see below for details for the Staffordshire area) will insist on seeing the original Will, as it is almost impossible to prove a photocopy.
You have five choices for storing your original Will:
- Our recommended option for your important legal documents is secure storage at National Will Safe. This has three key benefits:
- your Will is in a waterproof, fireproof, secure storage facility,
- you and your Executors receive a plastic card with contact details for retrieving your documents and
- your details are registered with Certainty UK, the national Wills’ database that has over 7 million records currently. Any legal professional can search the database to find out if you made a Will and where it is stored, taking away all the guesswork and hassle at a time when your family are grieving. If you would like us to arrange this for you, please call us on 01538 756166.
- The Principal Probate Registry in London provides a Will storage option, but only you can withdraw your Will from storage in your lifetime. The cost to deposit your Will is £20 and you must use the Court forms and request a special deposit envelope. Your Executors can retrieve your Will after your death. You can find out more here
- You can keep it yourself. This means that (if you are organised) you will always know where it is. If you keep it among your important papers, your Executors will be likely to know where to find it. The major issue with storing your Will at home is that if it cannot be found when you are no longer around it will be presumed that you cancelled it (the legal term is ‘revoked’). If you lose your Will or it is destroyed in a fire or flood at home, your Executors could try to prove that you did not intentionally revoke your Will. However, it can be very difficult to satisfy the Court that something did not happen and it may refuse to admit a copy of your Will to probate. The law of intestacy will apply, and all your careful estate planning will have been wasted.
- You could give it to someone else, perhaps one of your Executors. This has the same issues as storing it at your own home – it could be damaged or lost. If you would prefer the contents of your Will to remain private until your death, this might not be a sensible option.
- Your solicitor may offer to store your original Will. This means that you know where it will be and you can always ask for a copy to refer to. There are two potential issues to consider:
- In the past year, three of our clients have contacted their previous legal adviser to obtain a copy of their original Will, only to find that it cannot be found. This can happen if firms merge or when sole-practitioners retire – there should be robust plans in place to avoid any loss, but our experience is that this does not always happen. If the loss is not apparent until after you’ve passed away, or perhaps lost the capacity to make a new Will, sadly your estate plans will fail.
- Legal professionals also have a financial interest in holding on to original Wills. The Executor will have to request the original Will which gives the firm or person who wrote the Will the opportunity to sell their estate administration services.
If you would like to find out more about your options and why we recommend National Will Safe, please call us. Our advice and guidance is always free and we would are happy to discuss any concerns you may have.
Useful local information:
Stoke-on-Trent Probate Sub-Registry
Combined Court Centre
Birmingham District Probate Registry
The Priory Courts
33 Bull Street