Potentially unbeknown to a solicitor distributing an estate or who has already done so, people known to the deceased will undertake their own investigations if they feel something is untoward surrounding the way in which the estate is being, or was, distributed.
In 2018 there was an increase in the lay person using Certainty Will Search. In January and February 2018, Will finds following a Certainty Will Search by a lay person hit a record high at 45%.
The Certainty Will Search team took feedback from 100 members of the public who had undertaken a Certainty Will Search to understand their reasons for searching:
a) 29% believed a Will did not exist and that the estate was intestate but as a PR wanted to safeguard their position by searching
In the case of a) this equated to 29 individuals searching for a Will that they did not think existed. The Certainty Will Search found eleven Wills for PRs who say they were adamant that a Will had not been written.
b) 24% held a Will but as an Executor wanted to ensure that a later Will did not exist and appear after they had distributed the estate
In the case of b) this equated to 24 individual searches by Executors who believed they held the last Will, and had undertaken a search purely as a precautionary and comfort measure. Six later Wills were found.
c) 4% were trying to discover if a Will existed because they felt the estate should not have been treated as intestate or the Will used to obtain the grant of probate was not the last Will.
In the case of c) one searcher states that they believed a revoked Will had been used that prevented them from receiving certain possessions from the deceased that held sentimental value for them.
It is becoming increasingly common, as a standard part of practice, to check if a Will or later Will exists as a first step in distributing an estate. If a solicitor does not recommend or undertake this practice then it is also becoming increasingly common for the lay person to search themselves.
Mathew L, lay person commented: “We were not happy with the way in which my mother’s uncle’s estate was being distributed by another member of our family. We used a National Will Register search and a later Will was discovered. We were initially contacted by the solicitor who held the Will and my mother was asked to provide a death certificate and identification. The found Will left a gift to my mother which fortunately she then received as part of the probate.”