How to avoid distributing an estate based on assumptions

woman at laptopHow will searches are a key tool for firms prior to distributing an estate.

Biscoes, a law firm and member of Certainty the National Will Register, acted as joint executor in a recent probate matter.

They were fairly sure that they held the last will, but didn’t want to distribute the estate based on assumptions, so carried out a will search.

Another Certainty member responded to the search to state that they had written a will for the deceased, but that will pre-dated the will that Biscoes had subsequently written and were holding.

Liyen Edin, solicitor at Biscoes, said: "After the will search revealed an earlier will, we were confident that we held the last will of the deceased. This allowed us to distribute the estate to the sole beneficiary, a significant amount, which we were confident was going to the rightful person."

An intestacy matter?

Treethorpe is a firm of professional forensic genealogists and researchers that traces heirs and beneficiaries to deceased estates.

Jonathan Dattani, team leader and senior case manager, explains: “Treethorpe were referred this case from a local authority, who believed that the estate was an intestacy matter. As there were no funeral arrangements and accruing debts owed to a care home, we needed to act quickly.

“Whilst we were able to identify 19 cousins of the deceased who would be potential beneficiaries, we were aware that the deceased had been married, though he had passed away some time ago. When we investigated this further, we discovered that his estate had a grant of probate.

“A will from 1983 had been used to distribute his estate, making it possible that they had mirror wills. We contacted the beneficiaries named in this will to let them know that the deceased had passed away; if a mirror will was found, it would be likely they would be the named beneficiaries.

“Through the REACH element of the will search combined, we located an unregistered will. Dated January 1995, it was held by a firm in Bideford.

“The will appointed this firm as executor of the estate, which was valued at more than £800,000. Drafted following the passing of the husband, it left everything to ten charities, many of which were dog charities.”

Due to the will search, the estate was distributed according to the deceased’s wishes.

See also

Did you know that you can find unclaimed estates on The Gazette