How Do You Get a Copy of a Will?

Author:
John Lambe
Contentious Probate Solicitor
Date:
11/05/2020

There are a couple of different ways you can get a copy of a Will, but because a Will is a private document that stays private until you die and a Grant of Probate is issued, it can be difficult to get a copy. After the Grant of Probate is issued, a Will becomes a public document, which means anyone can apply for a copy.

Here are some practical things you can do to try to get a copy of a Will.

Get a Copy of a Will Before a Grant of Probate is Issued

Step 1 - Check if a Grant of Probate has been issued

You can do this by completing a free search on  www.gov.uk/search-will-probate. If the Grant of Probate has already been issued, the Will is now a public document and you can get a copy from the Probate Registry.

Step 2 - Set up a Standing Search

You do this with the Probate Registry either online or by post. They’ll send you a copy of the Grant and the Will if a Grant of Probate is issued at any time over a 6 month period from the date of the search. 

Step 3 - Ask the Executors

You can ask the Executors of the Will to give you a copy, but they legally don’t have to give you one.

Step 4 - Go to Court

You can make an application to the Court for an Order to release a copy to you.

Get a Copy of a Will After a Grant of Probate is Issued

After the Grant of Probate has been issued, the Will is a public document and you can get a copy from www.gov.uk/search-will-probate.

Alternatively, you’ll be automatically sent a copy of the Will and the Grant of Probate if you’ve set up a Standing Search with the Probate Registry.

Why Would I Need a Copy of the Will?

Some of the reasons you may want to get a copy of a Will are that:

  • Someone has died and you want to know if you’ve been left anything in their Will
  • You want to decide if you should make a claim to challenge the validity of the Will
  • You want to know if you can make a claim for a share or a larger share of the Estate

Claims against Wills often have strict time limits, which you will need to meet if you want to bring a claim. So it’s important to know what’s in the Will as soon as possible and whether a Grant of Probate has been issued. 

How We Can Help You

It will help you to instruct a specialist Contentious Probate Solicitor before the Grant of Probate is issued to help you get a copy of the Will. This is because Executors often refuse to give out a copy of the Will, particularly if you are not a beneficiary. This is often because they know this could result in a claim against the Estate. The Executors may want to avoid this and do this by refusing to give you a copy of the Will. 

Executors are often members of the same family as the person who died, meaning emotions are often running high. This usually explains why they don’t want to give you a copy of the Will before Probate has been granted.

Not having a copy of the Will before the Grant of Probate is issued does make claiming against the Estate more difficult. The Executors hope that by making the process as difficult as possible, you will give up your claim. An experienced and specialist Solicitor can force the early release of the Will and discuss with you what steps you can take to bring a claim against the Estate.

Most Solicitors would advise Executors to release a copy of the Will before Probate is granted. This is to reassure the beneficiaries or because there is a genuine dispute over the Will or its validity.

The reason for this advice is:

  • The Will becomes publicly available once the Grant of Probate is issued so you’re only delaying the inevitable

  • There’s no advantage to the delay if the Will is going to be contested. Withholding it could make the person making the claim more determined to take legal action
  • In all Court cases in England and Wales, trying to resolve the issues out of Court as early as possible is seen positively. By not giving a copy of the Will and therefore not settling earlier is not likely to win the sympathy of the Judge

  • It’s human nature to assume that something’s wrong if information is withheld. Showing that there is nothing to hide can make the Executors lives easier by letting them to get on with the job, rather than fielding questions from worried but persistent beneficiaries or family members.

Although you can get a copy of the Will yourself after the Grant of Probate has been issued, you should speak to a specialist Contentious Probate Solicitor as soon as possible to understand if you should bring a claim against the Estate.

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