Executor duties: lost will or last will

If a loved one’s will is lost, or if you need assurance that it was the last will that they made before they died, what should you do? Karen Liddar, Operations Manager at Certainty, The National Will Register, explains.

When a loved one passes away, it’s not always easy to locate their will, or know if they ever made a will. And even if you do find a will, how can you be sure that it’s the most recent version?

The importance of confirming the above can’t be overstated, particularly to those with the legal responsibility of administering the estate (the executors or administrators). A will sets out someone’s wishes for their estate. It should ultimately clarify who should receive what. It may also contain important funeral wishes, such as whether a burial or cremation was preferred.

Searching for a will in such circumstances has become an easier process in recent years. Certainty is the national will register that’s endorsed by the Law Society of England and Wales, and is accredited by the National Association of Funeral Directors.

So why is it that when a loved one dies, you may not be sure that they made a will, or be able to find their will, or know that it is their last will? For most people, a will is a very personal and private document that leads to a certain amount of contemplation about the end of their life. It’s not surprising, then, that once a will has been written, it’s often locked away and forgotten about.

However, when someone dies, finding their last will is very important, especially if you are an executor or administrator of their estate, with the legal responsibility to distribute it correctly. If a will can’t be found, or wasn’t written, a will search using Certainty is a legally recognised process that can be used to demonstrate that you have acted correctly. This helps to prevent claims arising from disgruntled beneficiaries due to the incorrect distribution of the estate, should a will, or a later will, come to light after the estate has been distributed. 

Similar to a Section 27 notice, which protects executors by requesting that creditors or debtors come forward, a Certainty will search searches for the last will, or confirms that a will did not exist, so that the estate can be distributed correctly. In addition, a Certainty will search can be paid for from the estate (an allowable disbursement), and allows you to search for both registered and unregistered wills.

About the author

Karen Liddar is Operations Manager at Certainty, The National Will Register. For further information, visit Certainty’s website, or call 0845 408 0404.