What to Do If the Will Cannot be Found
A loved one of yours has passed away. You know that he/she made a will but unfortunately you haven’t been able to find it. This is even after you have checked his/her personal belongings and asked family members and relatives if they know where the will was kept.
You need the will in order to apply for a grant of probate before you can start distributing the deceased’s assets. So what can you do if you cannot find your deceased relative’s will?
Search the Wills Registry for Information on the Will
The Wills Registry is maintained by the Public Trustee and allows testators (people making a will) to conveniently deposit information on their will for a small fee. Such information includes:
- The date of the will
- Who drew up the will
- Where the will is held
The Wills Registry will store such information for 120 years from the testator’s date of birth. However, it does not keep originals or photocopies of the will.
If your deceased relative had deposited information on his/her will with the Wills Registry, you can retrieve this information using the “Search for Existing Will Record” service at the Public Trustee Office E-Services page. The service costs $10.00 to use.
Ask the Lawyer Who Drew Up the Will
If your deceased relative had engaged a lawyer to draw up the will, you may check with the lawyer if the law firm has kept the original will (or a copy of it).
If you don’t know which lawyer drew up the will:
- Try searching the Wills Registry for this information (see above).
- Alternatively, you can place a notice in the Law Gazette to reach out to the lawyer who did so. It costs members of the public $214.00 to place this notice. The lawyer who drafted the will may then contact you upon seeing it.
Note that even if the lawyer’s law firm has kept the original will or copies of it, the lawyer can only disclose its contents to the executors of the will until probate has been granted. This is unless the executors consent to disclosure of the will’s contents before the grant of probate.
Look for a Copy or Draft of the Will
As provided by section 9 of the Probate and Administration Act, the court can grant probate of a copy or draft of the will until the original will is found. It is also possible for the court to grant probate of the contents of the will even without such copies or drafts if the will’s contents can be sufficiently established without them.
The procedure for applying to the court for an order to admit a draft, or copy, or the contents of the will to proof can be found at rule 248 of the Family Justice Rules. However, you may want to hire a lawyer to assist you with this process as it could potentially be a contentious one.
If the court grants your application to admit a draft, or copy, or the contents of the will to proof, you may then proceed to apply for grant of probate.
What If None of These Options Work for You?
If you have explored all of these options but are still unable to find the original will or copies of it, your deceased relative’s assets will be distributed to his/her surviving relatives according to the rules in the Intestate Succession Act.
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- What to Do If the Will Cannot be Found