‘How do I get a copy of a Will?’ is one of the most frequently asked questions that our Wills disputes team are called upon to answer.
The question often arises when someone has reason to think that they are named as a beneficiary in a Will, but those in control of the deceased’s estate are refusing to provide them with a copy.
So if you are being kept in the dark by an uncooperative executor or uncommunicative family member, what can you do about it? And in particular, how can you get your hands on a copy of the Will?
How do I get a copy of a Will when probate has been granted?
A Will is a public document once a probate has been issued. This means that where a Grant of Probate has been taken out you can apply for a copy of the Will to be provided to you.
To check if a probate has been issued go on to the gov.uk website at https://www.gov.uk/search-will-probate
This will enable you to find out if probate has been issued, and if it has, to order a copy of a probate record (including a will, if there is one).
There is a fee payable, but it’s a very modest one. The current charge (as at March 2022) is just £1.50 for each copy of a probate record ordered online.
If probate has not yet been issued, you can if you wish enter a ‘standing search’ at the gov.uk website using the PA1S form.
How do I get a copy of a Will when probate has not been granted?
If probate has not been granted, but you know who is dealing with the administration of the estate, you can ask them for a copy of the Will. There is no legal obligation on them to voluntarily give you a copy however. In these situations you may have to wait until probate has been granted and the Will becomes publicly accessible, though sometimes a formal request made by a solicitor can be effective in obtaining a copy, particularly if supported by a convincing legal argument for it to be disclosed.
If you have serious concerns about the way the estate is being administered then you could apply for a caveat to be issued. This prevents probate being granted and holds up the administration process. There are articles about caveats (and the associated principles of warnings and appearances) elsewhere on this site, but we would always recommend that professional legal advice be taken before embarking on this course of action.