How To Find Out if You Are the Beneficiary of a Will

The death of a loved one is always a highly emotional time. As well as dealing with your grief, you might also have questions about the issues surrounding Wills, probate and estate administration.

This can be compounded when you aren’t certain whether you’re the beneficiary of your loved one’s Will.

There are some things you can do to find out if you are the beneficiary of a Will. We’ve put together this guide to ensure you know what to do.

Find out if someone had a Will

To get a copy of a Will when there is one, the person administering their estate – known as the executor – must usually get authorisation from the Probate Service. This is called a grant of probate. There is no grant of probate needed when the estate is valued at less than £10,000 or all the deceased person’s assets were jointly owned with someone else, in which case ownership is transferred to that person.

When probate is granted, the Probate Service keeps a copy of the Will and anyone can then access a copy. This means you don’t have to be the executor to be able to view the Will.

In England, if someone has died recently and you’re not sure whether they had a Will, you can apply to the Probate Service for a standing search to be made. The Probate Service will need to check to see whether a grant of probate has been made in the last twelve months. If a grant has been made, they will send you a copy of this, as well as a copy of the Will. You will have to pay a small fee of £1.50 for each copy of a probate record.

Citizens Advice also suggests that if you want to search yourself, you can also do a more general search by the Probate Registry, which covers a four-year period.

Speak to the executor

You will typically be told by the Will executor if you are a beneficiary. It is part of their duties to ensure the beneficiaries of the Will are informed and to ensure that they receive the assets left for them by the deceased.

But there may be times when this doesn’t happen – for example, the executor can’t get in touch with you. So if you can find out who the executor is, you could ask them if you were left something by your loved one. You could also ask to see a copy of the Will. The executor doesn’t legally have to allow you to, but this is rare.

This is one of the most direct ways of finding out if you are the beneficiary of a Will so it can be the most effective. However, there is no specified length of time for an executor to inform beneficiaries so you may not hear for a while. You may want to set yourself a deadline to hear from the executor before approaching them.

Ask the deceased’s solicitor

If you know the executor and they don’t know where the deceased stored their Will, you could encourage them to contact your loved one’s solicitor to find out whether they have a copy. Solicitors often keep hold of clients’ Wills so there is a good chance of finding it there.

The executor will have to provide the death certificate and proof of identification before the solicitor hands over a Will.

Although it’s less common, banks have also been known to store Wills for customers so it could be worth contacting the deceased’s bank to find out.

If there is no Will

In the event your loved one passed away without a valid Will in place, the rules of intestacy will apply. This means that there are certain people who will inherit the deceased’s assets.

It is typically just legally married spouses or civil partners and other close relatives who will inherit when someone dies intestate. Under these rules, spouses and civil partners will only inherit if they were married or in a civil partnership at the time of death. They will not inherit anything if they were divorced or their civil partnership was dissolved.

There are rules about how much of the estate a spouse or civil partner can inherit before the rest goes to the deceased’s children so speaking to an estate administration solicitor could be advisable in your situation.

If there is no surviving spouse or civil partner, the deceased’s children will inherit the estate. If there are no surviving children, the grandchildren or the deceased will then inherit the estate. Parents, siblings and nieces and nephews may also inherit under the rules of intestacy depending on the family situation.

When you have questions about the process of estate administration or you don’t think things are progressing as they should, you might need the services of an expert solicitor. First4Lawyers can match you with the legal professional you need for this distressing time.


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