How do I find out if my father and mother left wills or assets?

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Losing a close relative is always an upsetting time, and can sometimes be made more difficult when it comes to handling their financial affairs.

Wills and Probate

A will is a legal document to ensure that on your death your assets are given to those you choose.

As the law stands there are 2 ways to deal with the tricky issue of wills:
  • If your parents left a will then it will detail what is to happen to the deceased’s property and assets
  • If your parents did not leave a will then the ‘rules of intestacy’ will be followed

How do I find out if my parents left a will?


A simple way of finding out if a will has been left is to look through the paperwork of the your lost relative. Often there may be some indication as to whether they created a will before they passed away.

If you are unable to find their will then contact their solicitor. Solicitors often keep records of the wills they make and it can easily be traced whether or not they hold a will.

Also, your late relative may have used a bank as their 'executor' to carry out the tasks associated with their will. An ‘executor’ is someone who the deceased has put in charge of managing the estate, which may include property, possessions and other assets. Their role involves securing all assets, determining the people entitled to a share in the estate and paying outstanding debts.

An executor is under an obligation to tell you if a will has been left and if you are entitled to anything in it.

You may also want to consider searching Certainty, the National Will Register online which may provide a record if a solicitor holds there will.

If at the time you do not feel that you could go through this process, you can always approach a solicitor to take charge of the situation.

What if I find a will?


If the will does not name an executor, someone who takes charge of the directions of the will, you may want to apply for a ‘grant of representation’. This will allow you access to things like your deceased loved ones bank account. This process can either be done by yourself or by your solicitor.

However, you may not need a ‘grant of representation’ if the deceased’s estate does not contain any property, land or shares.

What are my Responsibilities as an Executor or Administrator of the Will?


An ‘executor’ is someone named in the will by your deceased relative to carry out their wishes as specified in the will.

An ‘administrator’ is someone who is given permission by the courts to deal with the estate as if they were an executor. Administrators are needed when no executor has been named in the will or where there is no will.

As an executor or administrator you will have to deal with paperwork and third-party organisations, such as banks and building societies to collect your parents' assets. You will also need to ensure that any debts the deceased has left behind are paid, including utility bills. You can also use some of this money to pay for solicitors fees incurred as part of the process.

At this point, you will be allowed to distribute the estate to those your parents requested - these people are called the ‘beneficiaries’.

I can't find my parents will. What can I do?


If there is no will, the estate is dealt with according to the rules of intestacy.

This means that if the deceased has a spouse, then all assets will go to them.

However, if they were not married to their surviving partner or were in a civil partnership, then their partner has no automatic right to inherit.

However, if both your parents have passed away, then the assets will be given to you, as their children. This is then shared equally.

Adopted children, step-children who have been adopted by their step parent and half-siblings also have a right to inherit an equal share under the rules of intestacy.

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