When someone dies, unless family were told beforehand, or it is easy to find in the house, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether someone even had a will, let alone where it might be.
The problem is that there isn’t a central database of all the wills made in the UK. There is the Central Probate Registry, but it is not compulsory to enter the details of your will there, and not many people do. This might be because very few people are actually aware that it exists.
If you want to know about someone’s will for any reason, the first person to ask should be the one who has organised the funeral. They should at least be able to determine whether there is a will or not, which will aid you in your search. If there is a will, they may even be able to tell you what it consists of, but they are under no legal obligation to do this.
Once probate has been issued, the will itself becomes public. Once this is the case, you can apply to the probate registry to obtain a copy of the will. If you are unsure when probate is due to be given, you can register through a standing search at the probate registry. One registered, the search (which is set up in the person’s name, their address, and their date of death) lasts for 6 months. If probate has not been issued in that time, you will need to set up another search.
Making a will is an important thing to do. Once it’s finished, you can put it away safely and forget about it – you can, in other words, get on with the important business of living, with the peace of mind that your family and loved ones (and your possessions, money, and property) will be looked after when you die.
But there is more than one type of will, and it is essential that you choose the right one when it comes to writing yours. All wills do the same thing; they all set out in writing what you want to happen to your assets, and who you would like to deal with them. However, that doesn’t mean that you can simply pick any type of will and be done with it. They all have slightly different meanings and consequences.
The single will is the one that most people are familiar with. It is the list of instructions from one person regarding their estate. Not only is it the most widely used type of will, but it is also the simplest. There is another, similar will, however, that you may want to consider instead of the single will. This is the mirror will, and is useful for couples. The mirror will is for couples (either married, in a civil partnership, or unmarried) who have the same ideas of what they want to happen to their estate. It means that the two wills can mirror one another, and it is often cheaper to do this than to write two single wills.
Next is the property trust will. This is for those who want to protect the value of their property. This kind of will keeps the property safe for loved ones further down the line. It won’t be able to be sold to cover care fees for the surviving partner, for example. Another type of will that protects property is the flexible interest trust will. However, these wills also protect the testator’s savings and investments. The wills are flexible (as the name suggests) which means that some beneficiaries are able to receive their inheritance straight away, and others can have their put into a trust for a later date. This is a good choice of will to use when there are two (or more) families (ie there has been an additional marriage which has produced children).
Discretionary trust wills mean that specially chosen trustees will manage the estate and portion out the inheritance as they see fit. Because people’s circumstances change, this kind of will means that those who need the inheritance the most at the time of the testator’s death will receive it. The downside of this kind of will is that someone else will be making the decisions on your behalf, and they may not choose as you would have liked.
There is also a type of will called the living will. This is a different kind of will entirely, mainly due to the fact that in order for it to come into effect, the testator must still be alive. It is used to determine exactly what kinds of medical treatment can and should be used in the event of a life changing illness or accident. It is a way of making a decision when the testator can no longer speak for themselves (perhaps due to a coma, for example).
And these are just the most common types of will – others include the unsolemn will and the notarial will as well as many more.