Who is entitled to see a Will after death?
Subject to the circumstances described below, only the personal representatives appointed in a Will are legally entitled to see the will before the grant (also known as Probate) is issued.
The grant is a document issued by the court confirming that it accepts the deceased’s Will is valid and lists the people who are entitled to deal with the deceased person’s assets. After the court issues the grant, the Will becomes a public document (unless the deceased is a member of the Royal Family).
Nevertheless, the personal representatives owe various duties to the beneficiaries of the Will. Unless there are any special reasons, usually a decision by the personal representative to withhold information from a beneficiary of his or her rights under the Will would be hard to reconcile with overriding duties of the personal representative. The personal representatives may choose to provide details to a beneficiary only after enquiries have been made as to the deceased’s assets and liabilities, to enable a reasonable estimate of the size of the beneficiary’s entitlement.
If a beneficiary approaches a firm of solicitors requesting the contents of the Will, the solicitor cannot provide that information without the permission of the personal representatives and evidence of the death. If a person with a legitimate interest enquires, a solicitor may provide details of the personal representatives and what the Will(or any note kept with it) mentions about funeral wishes.
In the event that a serious dispute arises as to the validity of a Will, a solicitor may provide a copy of the Will and a statement of the circumstances in which it was made but only with the consent of the other person(s) entitled those confidential documents and communications (known as legal privilege). A solicitor is entitled to make reasonable charges in providing that information. If the personal representatives refuse to provide information about a Will, formal proceedings may be brought to disclose them or to lodge with the court all testamentary documents within the possession or control of the personal representatives or solicitor together with a witness statement about the testamentary documents.
Should you require further information about the disclosure of a Will, please contact us on 0800 2800 421. Trethowans has one of the largest Private Client Teams in the South, with specialist solicitors on hand to answer all your enquiries and guide you through every step following the death of a loved one.