20th SEPTEMBER 2021
When someone dies, their Will is not publicly available to read unless a grant of probate has been issued by the probate registry to the executor who is responsible for administering their estate.
If there is no grant of probate, only the executors named in the Will are entitled to read its contents. Once the grant of probate has been acquired, the Will becomes a public document available for anyone to read.
Can I view the Will if I am the executor?
When someone writes a Will, they are encouraged to name an executor who will be responsible for administering their estate following their death. Usually, the executor is a close friend or relative of the deceased, but it is also possible to allocate this role to a probate solicitor.
If you have been named the executor in someone’s Will, you are entitled to read it immediately following their death. It is recommended that you acquire a copy of the Will as soon as possible so that you can get a head start on the probate process, which can take many months to complete.
To get a copy of the Will as the executor, you will need to get in contact with the organisation or solicitor who is storing it for safekeeping. Once your identity has been confirmed, you are free to read the Will as soon as you please.
As the executor, you are responsible for ensuring that the beneficiaries of the Will receive their allocated share of the estate. Part of this responsibility includes keeping them in the loop about what they are owed and how far along the probate process you are. Therefore, you should contact the beneficiaries as soon as possible after acquiring the Will to notify them of the death, let them know that you will be acting as the executor, and inform them of what they stand to inherit according to the Will.
Can I view the Will if I am a beneficiary?
Beneficiaries of an estate are not entitled to read the Will until a grant of probate has been acquired by the executor, which makes the Will a public document.
The executor should have contacted you following the death to disclose your inheritance before they begin the lengthy probate process, but it is also a good idea to acquire your own copy of the Will once a grant of probate has been issued so that you can read it through in your own time. The executor has a responsibility to act in your best interests as a beneficiary, so reading the Will can help you to keep them accountable.
When the grant of probate has been issued, you can apply to the probate registry and pay a fee to have a copy sent to you.
Can I view the Will if probate is not required?
When an estate is very small or contains no property, probate might not be required. In these cases, the Will remains a private document only accessible to the executors due to the absence of a grant of probate.
If you are the beneficiary of a small estate where probate is not required, you are not entitled to read the Will at any point following the death. However, in most cases, the executors will not withhold information and will let you know in detail the terms of the Will as they go about the estate administration.
While there is no legal requirement for the executor to disclose the terms of the Will to anyone, it is in their best interests to keep the beneficiaries in the loop to avoid any beneficiary getting a solicitor involved.