Personal Law

Who is entitled to see a Will after death in the UK?

Estimated read time: 3 mins

Carrie Tennick, March 31, 2020

When someone close to you dies, it’s a distressing and painful time. This can often be made more stressful when you then have to deal with the person’s Will – or wait for someone else to do it.

You will have to deal with your grief, as well as any potential hitches in the estate administration process. If you are a beneficiary, it may be that you suspect the executor is not managing the estate as the person who died would have wished or that you worry that not all their wishes are being carried out.

In situations like these, you could find yourself asking who is entitled to see the Will and at what stage it’s possible to do so.

Who can see a Will after a death?

In England and Wales, the stage of the probate process will decide who can see a Will. If the grant of probate has been issued, a Will is then considered a public document. This means anyone can apply to the Probate Registry for a copy.

But before the grant of probate is issued, only named executors of the Will are entitled to see it, which could potentially frustrate beneficiaries. But in most cases, if you ask to see a Will, the executor will not refuse. And in most cases, executors will explain what you’ve been left in the Will.

It’s worth remembering that the executor can deny your request. And if you make a request to the individual or organization storing the Will – such as the bank or solicitor of the person who has passed away – they will need the permission of all named executors before they can give you a copy.

Potential issues

When an estate is being dealt with, you might find that you have some concerns about its administration.

If you are worried that the Will executor is mismanaging the estate or not working as quickly as they should, you may want to consult with a specialist Wills and probate solicitor. However, you might find that speaking to the executor can help to iron out any issues.

Remember that the executor may be gathering information to help with the estate administration. They may be paying debts and ensuring there are no potential problems with the assets set out in the Will.

The executor is allowed a year from the date of death before you can take action to force them to distribute the assets. But if they have a good reason for delaying the distribution – such as waiting to sell a property named in the Will – you likely won’t be able to force them into doing so.

Requesting a copy of the Will

If you want to see the Will in question and probate has been granted, you can search online for a copy.

But before probate has been granted, the most direct way of doing so is to request a copy of it from the executor. But if your requests are ignored, you might want to consider taking legal action.

Your solicitor may be able to help you make a court application to force the executor to obtain probate. This would then mean that anyone is able to see the Will.

To find out how First4Lawyers could make it easier for you to see a copy of a Will, give us a call, request a call back or make an enquiry online.

We understand how difficult it is to lose someone you care about and then have to worry about the administration of the estate and whether things are going well.

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