A Will is one of the most important documents that you will ever write or have written. As such it is only just as important to ensure its safe keeping, to ensure that it can be found safely without issue and executed to ensure that your wishes are followed when the time comes, and your estate administered appropriately.
When we talk about keeping a Will safe, we often talk about two things: Will storage, or safe/cold-storage depending on the language used, and Will registration. At The National Will Register, we receive a number of questions from the public about both – and in this article we’ll outline what each are, how they are different, but also why having both is the most secure way in ensuring your Will is safe, and able to be found and executed when the time comes.
To many, this will mean ensuring that a Will is stored safely – usually done with the solicitor or Will writer that has written your Will, as they will often offer safe storage as an added benefit of their Will writing services.
In most instances, you’ll be handed a photocopy of your Will for your records and for you to share with who you feel appropriate – including perhaps your spouse, the executor of the Will, or any children you may have – while the Will itself is kept in a secure site either at the solicitor or Will writers’ offices, or at an off-site facility.
The advantages of having a Will stored for safe-keeping is that the document is protected from damage and loss – and kept in a facility that can be contacted at any time to retrieve the Will, but in a secure manner where only those privy to its contents are allowed to collect the Will. As such, as well as being physically safe and secure, there are the security considerations in terms of being able to protect your Will from those who should not be able to view it.
Will registration is where the location of the Will and the testator’s name (the person whose Will it is) is registered with a database to ensure that it can be found by those who are entitled to know its location, wherever it is stored once the time comes.
When registering the Will, the Will itself is not transferred to The National Will Register. Instead, the location and simple details such as the testator’s name and the date of the Will are registered.
The purpose of this, is so that should your family or friends be unable to ascertain the latest and most up-to-date Will beyond doubt, they can locate it using a Certainty Will Search – searching the database of over 9.8 million Wills and unregistered Wills in geographically targeted areas so that the right Will is found – and your wishes carried out as written.
As Will registration only requires the location and basic information, a positive search is handed to the holder of the Will in storage, so that they can then arrange for validation and security checks before releasing the Will to a rightful recipient.
As you can see, Will registration is not the same as Will storage but is complementary to it. By registering your Will with The National Will Register, you ensure that a Will held securely can be found by those entitled to do so.
Only a third of UK adults feel they know where their parents’ Wills are and would be able to find it and carry out their wishes. While it is encouraged across the whole wills and probate industry to discuss matters such as your Will, funeral and next steps with your next of kin and family, Will registration allows you the certainty that your Will can be found, regardless of where it is kept.
Furthermore, it helps to protect against your Will being forgotten about should circumstances change with the solicitor or Will writer who is storing the Will for you. Should your Will be moved to another location or the firm change hands or close down, these are often re-registered with The National Will Register.
What should I do?
When it comes to writing your Will, it is vital that it is both protected and not forgotten about – which is easy to do, especially as it is not at the forefront of your mind.
Therefore, you should look to utilise both safe-storage and Will registration. By storing your Will safely, you are protecting it from damage, loss and from it being seen by anyone you do not wish to read it.
Then by registering your Will, you are protecting your Will from being forgotten or abandoned. It allows your next of kin and family to locate and retrieve the Will when the time comes so that your wishes are honoured.
For more information about Will registration, go to our dedicated web page.