Wills and Probate specialist, Jenny Greenland answers a common question – who is entitled to see a Will after death?
Jenny is available on 01225 462871 or by completing the contact form below.
Who is entitled to see a Will after death UK?
In England and Wales, who is entitled to see a Will after a person has died depends on whether probate has been granted. A Grant of Probate is a legal document giving the executors authority to carry out the deceased person’s wishes according to their Will’s terms.
Before probate, only the people named in the Will as executors are entitled to read the Will. After probate, a Will becomes a public document, and anyone can apply to the Probate Registry for a copy.
You must verify your identity if you believe you are an executor and a solicitor holds the Will. Generally, you should produce the original Death Certificate and two forms of personal documentation confirming your identity and address.
Before probate, if a non-executor requests sight of the Will or asks for a copy, their request should only be allowed if all the named executors agree. However, in practice, the executors often notify a residuary beneficiary of their inheritance before the issue of a Grant of Probate. A residuary beneficiary receives the ‘residue’ of the estate, ie everything left after distribution of specific gifts in the Will.
Do previous Wills become public documents?
Only the Will provided to the Probate Registry becomes a public document. All previous Wills remain private.
What happens if probate is not required?
Sometimes, probate is not required. In such cases, the Will remains private, although the executors usually do show the beneficiaries but not others.
What can a beneficiary do if the executors refuse to disclose a copy of the Will?
Strictly speaking, disclosing the Will to the beneficiaries is optional if probate is not required. However, in this situation, somebody who knows or believes they are a beneficiary can formally request a copy from the executors in writing. And if the request is refused or ignored, the beneficiary can apply to the court for an order compelling the executors to apply for probate. Doing so will make the Will public. But, a beneficiary should exercise caution before taking this step. That is because applying to the court can prove expensive, and there is no guarantee that the court will make the order requested.
Can a solicitor provide a copy of a Will to an attorney of an incapacitated person?
It may be that a beneficiary is incapacitated but has an attorney. Unless a solicitor has cause for concern, they may disclose a copy of a Will to the attorney, provided there are no instructions to the contrary in the Lasting Power of Attorney.