In a recent survey it was discovered that a staggering 1 in 2 people in Britain has no Will and that almost one in two Brits risk losing control over their assets when they pass away.
This is surprising considering that a Will is one of the most important legal documents that a person can have.
A Will allows you to specify how your assets should be distributed after your death and can help to avoid any confusion or disagreements between your loved ones.
One of the questions we are asked regularly as experts in Probate, Wills, and Trusts here at Robertsons Solicitors is whether a Will has to be registered.
The short answer is no, a Will does not have to be registered in the United Kingdom. However, you can register a Will with the National Register for Wills for peace of mind. You can also store your Will with the Probate Registry, so you know that it is kept in a safe place. If you do not store or register your Will, you should inform your Executors where the original is kept, such as with your solicitor.
We’ll start with some background to what makes a Will legal. In order to ensure the correct registration and execution of a Will, contact us today to get advice and representation.
What makes a Will legal in the UK?
For a Will to be legal in the UK, it must meet certain requirements. These requirements are set out in the Wills Act 1837, and they include the following:
- The Will must be in writing
- It must be signed by the person making it (the ‘testator’) in the presence of two witnesses
- The witnesses must also sign the Will in the presence of the testator
- The Will must state that it is intended to be the testator’s Will
If a Will doesn’t meet these requirements, it isn’t legal and won’t be valid.
This means that the instructions in the Will can’t be followed, and the Estate will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy.
Under the rules of intestacy, the Estate will be divided between the deceased person’s spouse or civil partner and their descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc) which is set out in law.
If the deceased person wasn’t married or in a civil partnership, their estate will be divided between their parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, or grandparents.
If there are no surviving relatives, the estate will ‘escheat’ to the Crown. This simply means that the government will inherit the estate.
You can find out more about intestacy and what happens if someone dies without a Will on GOV.UK.
What happens if you don’t register a Will?
If you don’t register your Will or store it with the Probate Registry you simply need to ensure that your Executors know where the original Will is kept.
It is common for the solicitor that drafts your Will, to store it for you. Therefore, once your Will is signed, ensure that you inform your Executors where your Will is kept so that it can be retrieved upon your death. The original Will would be needed to apply for probate.
What is probate?
Probate is the legal process of validating a Will. To have a Will probated in the UK, you must first apply to the Probate Registry.
The Probate Registry is a division of HM Courts & Tribunals Service and is responsible for dealing with the estate of someone who has died.
How does it cost to apply for probate?
If you need to apply for probate, you will need to estimate the value of the Estate to establish if there is inheritance tax to pay. You shall also need to know the value as this affects the fee to apply for probate. If the value of the Estate is over £5,000, the application fee is currently £273. If it is less than £5,000 there is no fee to pay.
How do I store or register a Will?
Once a Will has been drafted, there are two options. You are able to store the Will with the Probate Registry. The other option which you can do as well as, or instead of, is register the Will with the National will Register.
Register a Will
Registering a Will with the National Will Register is a simple process and does not involve sending them the Will, but it just creates a record of where the Will is held and the fact that one has been created.
When you pass away, a search can be undertaken of the National Register of Will and your Executors can then contact the necessary solicitor, organisation or person to obtain the original Will.
There is however a cost for both registering and searching the register for any Wills. It currently costs £30 to register a Will and upwards of £114 to search for a Will.
Store a Will
To store your will at the Probate Registry, you’ll need to send the original copy, along with a completed application form, to the Probate Registry.
The application form can be obtained from the Probate Registry or downloaded from their website.
Once your Will is registered, you’ll be given a reference number that you can use to retrieve it at any time. There is a small fee for storing a Will (currently £20), but it’s worth it for the peace of mind it can provide.
Brighton District Probate Registry
William Street, Brighton, East Sussex BN2 0RF
Go online for maps and directions: Brighton District Probate Registry
Cardiff Probate Registry of Wales
3rd Floor, Cardiff Magistrates Court, Fitzalan Place, Cardiff, South Wales CF24 0RZ
Go online for maps and directions: Cardiff Probate Registry of Wales
Leeds District Probate Registry
York House, 31 York Place, Leeds LS1 2BA
Go online for maps and directions: Leeds District Probate Registry
Liverpool District Probate Registry
Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts, Derby Square, Liverpool L2 1XA
Go online for maps and directions: Liverpool District Probate Registry
Newcastle District Probate Registry
1 Waterloo Square, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne & Wear NE1 4DR
Go online for maps and directions: Newcastle District Probate Registry
Oxford District Probate Registry
Combined Court Building, St. Aldates, Oxford OX1 1LY
Go online for maps and directions: Oxford District Probate Registry
Winchester District Probate Registry
4th Floor, Cromwell House, Andover Road, Winchester SO23 7EW
Go online for maps and directions: Winchester District Probate Registry
Benefits of registering or storing a Will
Although registering a Will or storing it with the Probate Registry is not required by law in the UK, there are several benefits to doing so.
It can help to ensure that the Will is found and read after the person’s death. If a Will is not stored correctly, there is no guarantee that it will be found.
This can cause problems if there are disputes about the contents of the Will or if people are trying to track down beneficiaries.
Another benefit of registering a Will is that it can help to speed up the probate process and it can be retrieved easily.
If a Will is stored with the Probate Registry it could assist with making the probate process quicker (although this depends if it is stored in the same Registry that will deal with the Probate.
Do I need a solicitor to register a Will?
No, you don’t need a solicitor to register a Will. If you use the National Will Register you can register the Will yourself via their website. You can also apply to the Probate Registry yourself if you want to store it with them
However, it’s always a good idea to have your Will prepared by a qualified solicitor to ensure that it’s legally binding. Furthermore, the solicitor will often be able to safely store the original Will for no costs and may already be set up to register Wills with the National Register of Wills.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether or not you should register or store your Will. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your situation. If you have any questions, it’s always a good idea to speak with a solicitor to get professional advice.