The High Court has decided that the “dignity and standing” of the Queen will be protected by not disclosing Prince Philip’s Will following his death in April 2021.
This sort of protection is not new and has been used repeatedly by the Royal Family to protect the details of family members’ Wills for over a century. However, for the first time, a process has now been set out by which Prince Philip’s Will (and those of other Royals) could one day be made public.
Following the death of a senior member of the Royal Family, it is customary for a request to be made for their Wills to be sealed by the courts, meaning they cannot be viewed by the public (as is normally possible for most Wills in England and Wales).
The sealing of Prince Philip’s Will was handled in a private hearing held by Sir Andrew McFarlane, the country’s most senior family court judge who is President of the Family Division of the High Court.
In a break with convention, Sir Andrew has said that the Wills of Senior Royals will now be opened and reviewed 90 years after they are sealed by the monarch’s private solicitor, the keeper of the Royal Archives, the attorney general and any personal representatives of the dead person (if available).
However, this does mean that the contents of Prince Philip’s Will shall remain private until 2111 at the earliest.
This is in sharp contrast to the situation regarding the Wills of ordinary members of the public, which are publicly accessible by anyone once probate has been granted. They are held in a database on the Government website with a £1.50 download fee.
How do you find the Will after someone has passed?
When a person has passed away, their Will needs to be found so that the executor of the Will can apply to obtain probate and start the administration of the estate.
Some of the common places that Wills are kept include:
With the deceased’s solicitor or accountant
Many people use their solicitor or accountant to help them write their Will, and often, they will also store their Will with them. It would be wise to contact them, or if you are unsure of who their solicitor or accountant was, call around local ones.
With their bank
It is usual for banks to store documents for individuals, such as property deeds or a person’s Will. If you are unable to locate it elsewhere, their bank could be an option. Although unless you are the executor of the estate, they will likely not provide you with a copy.
At their home
In some cases, a person may have decided to keep their Will in their home instead of storing it elsewhere. It could be stored in a safe, filing cabinet, cupboard, etc.
There are many places that a person may choose to store their Will. They might decide to tell a close friend or family member the location.
Certainty National Will Register
If you are still unable to locate the deceased person’s Will after searching these places, then you could attempt to try the Certainty National Will Register – when professionals such as solicitors, accountants or Will writers help to plan and write a Will, they will usually store their client’s Will using this database.
An individual can also choose to store their Will using the register too.
What happens if a Will is not located?
If the deceased didn’t leave a Will or you are unable to locate a Will after searching the various possible places that one might be stored, then the distribution of their estate will be in line with inheritance laws called the ‘Rules of Intestacy’ (these are only applicable in England and Wales).
The Rules of Intestacy state that:
- The next of kin to the deceased would be appointed as the administrator of their estate
- Their spouse or civil partner would inherit assets (including property) to the value of £270,000 and all their personal possessions (no limit on value)
- Half of the remaining estate will be inherited by the spouse or civil partner, and the other half is equally divided between any living children
- If there are no living children or other eligible direct descendants, then the spouse or civil partner will inherit the entire estate
Are Wills accessible by anyone?
Who can access a Will depends on whether probate has been granted or not.
Until probate is granted, the only people who legally have access to the Will are the appointed executors. Once probate has been granted, it is changed to a public document, available for all to read.
How can our Kent based solicitors help?
Having a loved one pass away can be an emotional time for all involved, and we understand that being appointed the executor of their estate can be a stressful process on top of your grief.
Our friendly solicitors at Morlings can assist you with the administration, taking the pressure off you and allow you to grieve the loss of your loved one.
Please contact us by calling your local branch or by filling in our online enquiry form, and we will get back to you promptly.