Carrying out a will search: you may be surprised by what you find

Why a search for a lost, unknown or latest will is worth considering.

In January and February 2018, Certainty will searches by the public (rather than through their solicitor) resulted in a record high of 45 per cent of the searches finding a will.

To find out more, Certainty took feedback from 100 people who’d carried out a Certainty will search, and found that:

  • 29 per cent believed that a will did not exist and that the estate was intestate, but wanted to safeguard their position by searching. The will search found 11 wills for personal representatives who had previously been adamant that a will had not been written.
  • 24 per cent held a will, but wanted to ensure that a later will did not exist and appear after they had distributed the estate. These searches were carried out by executors purely as a precautionary measure. Six later wills were found.
  • 4 per cent were trying to discover if a will existed because they felt the estate should not have been treated as intestate, or suspected that the will used to obtain grant of probate was not the last will. One searcher states that they believed a revoked will had been used that prevented them from receiving certain possessions from the deceased that had sentimental value to them.

A family member, friend, executor or personal representative may have their own beliefs surrounding a will, unbeknown to the solicitor. People known to the deceased may start their own investigations if they feel something is untoward, or if they want protection from an unknown will coming forward after distribution of the estate.

Other reasons that the search was carried out included:

  • 19 per cent who knew that a will had been written and existed, but did not know where it was.
  • 12 per cent who were unhappy, believing that the will being used to distribute the estate had been superseded by a new will, and that there was an attempt to distribute the estate and avoid identifying beneficiaries named in the later will.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 per cent were advised to go online and search by their legal adviser.
  • 3 per cent were looking for a will to understand if it contained funeral wishes.
  • 3 per cent were not a blood relative of the deceased, but felt the executor/administrator distributing the estate was not adhering to the wishes of the deceased.

Emma-Louise Green, contentious probate solicitor at The Wilkes Partnership, says:

“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.”

About the author

Certainty is the longest established and largest will register in the UK and is the Law Society's endorsed provider of a national will register. To find our more and search for a will, go to