The percentage of Will Searches that result in a change of circumstances against what was previously expected when it came to initiating probate or estate administration has increased.
More than two in ten Certainty Will Searches that result in a positive match locate a Will in cases where the estate was presumed intestate, or a later Will being discovered that supersedes a previously known Will.
For probate solicitors, while it’s oftentimes difficult for executors or family members to believe that they may not have the most current Will to hand or that there may be a Will out there that’s unbeknownst to them, a Certainty Will Search gives them the clarity and reassurance that the estate can be distributed correctly with the wishes of the most up-to-date Will, or in line with intestacy rules.
To take a client’s word as to whether it is the final Will or that there is no Will leaves the risk of a contested matter down the line that a Certainty Will Search could prevent. With 9.4 million records on The National Will Register’s system and targeted geographical searches for Wills not yet on the system, a Certainty Will Search reduces that risk and provides evidence that you have taken reasonable steps to prove you are proceeding correctly.
With contentious probate cases continuing to rise year-on-year, it’s more important than ever to have your bases covered.
Jayne Smith, Partner and Head of Wills and Probate at member firm Rotheras discusses how a Certainty Will Search carried out by a genealogist firm found a Will with them where none was thought to exist by the searcher’s client, and prevented an estate from being wrongly distributed under intestacy rules:
“We were notified by The National Will Register that a search was being made and on checking our records we discovered that we were holding a Will for the deceased which was a Will that was drafted by a firm that Rotheras had merged with some time ago. The Will appointed a previous neighbour and a nephew, who had pre-deceased the testator, as joint executors of the estate. Some of the named beneficiaries in the Will were relatives of her deceased husband who would not have necessarily been aware of this as they live in Lithuania.”
“The matter is ongoing, and the executor of the estate has now instructed Rotheras to administer the estate. The size of the estate is currently unknown but the estate does include a property that the deceased owned.”
“This case demonstrates exactly why you cannot make an assumption and take it at face value that an estate is either intestate or that the Will presented to you is in fact the last valid Will. Had the other instructed firm not advised a Certainty Will Search, the estate would have been distributed incorrectly with the wrong beneficiary inheriting. It is not worth the risk of a valid Will coming to light after an estate has been distributed. This is why at Rotheras, we recommend that our clients instruct us to conduct a Certainty Will Search on every case.”
A Certainty Will Search is a disbursement to the estate and is therefore cost-neutral to a law firm. If you have any questions about how Certainty Will Searches benefit your firm and how to integrate them into your probate processes, contact your account manager or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.