In January and February 2018, Certainty Will Searches undertaken by members of the public have produced some interesting results that are worth noting.
Certainty Will Searches instigated directly by the public (rather than through their solicitor) resulted in 45% of the searches finding a Will.
The Certainty Will Search team took feedback from 100 members of the public who had undertaken a Certainty Will Search to understand their reasons for searching:
a) 29% believed a Will did not exist and that the estate was intestate but as a PR wanted to safeguard their position by searching
b) 24% held a Will but as an Executor wanted to ensure that a later Will did not exist and appear after they had distributed the estate
c) 4% were trying to discover if a Will existed because they felt the estate should not have been treated as intestate or the Will used to obtain the grant of probate was not the last Will
In the case of a) this equated to 29 individuals searching for a Will that they did not think existed. The Certainty Will Search found 11 Wills for PRs who say they were adamant that a Will had not been written.
In the case of b) this equated to 24 individual searches by Executors who believed they held the last Will, and had undertaken a search purely as a precautionary and comfort measure. 6 later Wills were found.
In the case of c) one searcher states that they believed a revoked Will had been used that prevented them from receiving certain possessions from the deceased that held sentimental value for them.
A number of these statistics provide real food for thought for a solicitor distributing an estate who may not be aware that a family member, friend, executor or personal representative may have their own beliefs surrounding a Will, the last Will and who the real beneficiaries are.
Potentially unbeknown to a solicitor distributing an estate or who has already distributed an estate, people known to the deceased will undertake their own investigations if they feel something is untoward or want protection from an unknown Will coming forward after distribution. In nearly 50% of Certainty Will Searches these public searchers discovered an unknown Will.
Other reasons the search was undertaken included;
- 19% knew a Will had been written and existed but did not know where it was
- 12% were unhappy, believing that the Will being used to distribute the estate had been superseded by a new Will and that there was an attempt to distribute the estate and avoid identifying beneficiaries named in the later Will
- 6% were advised to go online and search by their legal adviser
- 3% were looking for a Will to understand if it contained funeral wishes
- 3% were not a blood relative of the deceased but felt the executor/administrator distributing the estate was not adhering to the wishes their deceased ‘friend’ had discussed
Emma-Louise Green, Contentious Probate Solicitor, The Wilkes Partnership, comments: “It is important to consider whether you need to take any enhanced steps to check that the Will that you have been presented with is indeed the last Will. Undertaking a Certainty Will Search can shed some light on this. Sometimes, family members may suspect something to be the case but cannot confirm because the testator is no longer with us to verify questions surrounding their Will. Using Certainty can help to demonstrate that an action was taken to check the factual situation that is being presented to a solicitor, executor or wider family member. It can potentially reduce the possibility of a dispute taking place through a Will coming to light during or after estate distribution. Searches are called for in many legal activities to provide a safeguard or to try to discover unknown information. A Certainty Will Search is no different. The results of the survey demonstrate the usefulness of carrying out such a search no matter how well you thought you knew your client or the executors or personal representatives.”
For further information on the types of searches you can carry out please contact us on 0330 100 3660 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.