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Lost Wills

by Access Legal

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A lost Will might as well have never been made. We get many phone calls from relatives who are experiencing difficulties finding the Will of their loved ones.

'The consequences of a lost Will can include family disputes, unnecessary inheritance tax bills and expensive tracing fees' Lucy Thomas, Associate

If the Will is not registered with a national will register, the only option is to contact every solicitor in the deceased's location to ask if they are holding a Will.

This is a hugely time consuming exercise which may not produce the desired result, especially if the testator has moved around the country and no one knows when or where the Will was made.

Access Legal supports the Certainty National Will Register (CNWR), which registers Wills made by qualified and regulated professionals.

Lucy Thomas, an associate in the Wills, family and wealth team said: "The consequences of a lost Will can include family disputes, unnecessary inheritance tax bills and expensive tracing fees."

The 2009 case of Thorner v Major is an example of the costly arguments that can arise when a Will is lost. David Thorner worked on the farm of his cousin, Peter, and was the main beneficiary of Peter's 1997 Will.

The Will could not, however, be found after Peter's death. It took four years, £400,000 in legal costs and a great deal of distress for all those involved before the estate was settled. David's solicitor, Stephen Gisby, believes that had the 1997 will been registered with a national Will register, David's agony could have been avoided.

Fellow associate Karen Shakespeare recently dealt with a case in which an elderly man had told his friends that his will benefited them because he had no close family.

After he died, his Will could not be found and his friends believe it was accidentally thrown away when his house was cleared after his death.

She said: 'Because the Will couldn't be found, I had no option but to try to trace his family. Eventually a tracing company located a wife he'd been estranged from for over 30 years, and she took everything.

'It's extremely unlikely that this is what he would have wanted. If his Will had been lodged with a solicitor and registered with CNWR, it wouldn't have been lost and his wishes would have been followed.'

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