Every day The National Will Register locates unknown Wills for estates that were believed to be intestate or a later Will is found that revokes the Will being used to distribute an estate. Many solicitors and probate professionals conduct a Certainty Will Search as a matter of course when dealing with an estate to ensure that the last valid Will is being used to distribute the estate. This not only ensures correct distribution but it reduces the risk of a later valid Will coming to light in the future.
In this case study, Jayne Smith, Partner and Head of Wills and Probate at member firm Rotheras discusses how a Certainty Will Search has recently prevented an assumed intestate estate from being distributed incorrectly.
Jayne comments: “The deceased recently passed away in January of this year. She has no next-of-kin or children, so when she was admitted to the hospital, where she passed away, social services got involved to deal with her estate. They contacted a genealogist firm who were able to trace a great niece who had lost contact with the deceased. The great niece instructed another firm to deal with the estate which at this point was believed to be intestate. Straight away the firm advised that a Certainty Will Search should be conducted to ensure that the deceased had not written a Will.”
The firm who conducted the Will search are also members of The National Will Register. A registered 1999 Will was located at Rotheras after a Will Search Combined was conducted. A Will Search Combined searches for Wills that have been registered on The National Will Register and for Wills that have not yet been registered.
Jayne continues: “We were notified by The National Will Register that a search was being made and on checking our records we discovered that we were holding a Will for the deceased which was a Will that was drafted by a firm that Rotheras had merged with some time ago. The Will appointed a previous neighbour and a nephew, who had pre-deceased the testator, as joint executors of the estate. Some of the named beneficiaries in the Will were relatives of her deceased husband who would not have necessarily been aware of this as they live in Lithuania.”
“The matter is ongoing, and the executor of the estate has now instructed Rotheras to administer the estate. The size of the estate is currently unknown but the estate does include a property that the deceased owned.”
Jayne concludes: “Although the matter is ongoing, this case demonstrates exactly why you cannot make an assumption and take it at face value that an estate is either intestate or that the Will presented to you is in fact the last valid Will. Had the other instructed firm not advised a Certainty Will Search, the estate would have been distributed incorrectly with the wrong beneficiary inheriting. It is not worth the risk of a valid Will coming to light after an estate has been distributed. This is why at Rotheras we recommend that our clients instruct us to conduct a Certainty Will Search on every case.”
A Certainty Will Search is a disbursement to the estate and is therefore completely cost neutral to a law firm.