Do you have to register a will in the UK?
A better question than: “do you have to register a will in the UK?” (a will may be legally valid whether registered or not), might be: “should you register your will?”. Registration supports your executors in not only finding your will, but in ensuring that it’s the most recent version.
- An unregistered will may be legally valid.
- Registration of a will supports the identification of ‘up-to-date’ documents.
- Executors can be held personally liable for improperly managing the deceased’s affairs.
For the avoidance of doubt, we mean by: ‘registering the will’, the uploading of certain information onto the National Will Register.
When ‘registered’, information including: details of the testator (the will’s creator), witness/executor information and the location of the document, is stored on a central and searchable database.
At time of registration, the information above is uploaded to the system (a charge is made by the register for this – £30 – at time of writing), and a certificate issued. During probate the register may then be searched, by those administering the deceased’s estate.
For the avoidance of doubt, the presence of a particular will on the National Will Register is confidential, until the testator’s death, at which time only those directly involved with the document are able to search for it.
Do you have to register a will in the UK? Why register?
The primary reason to register a will is to ensure that it’s located on your demise, by executors or administrators.
A search of the register might alert concerned parties, to the existence of a will (of which they weren’t aware) on your death. Crucially, the register might also alert executors to a more recent document than that already identified. It is common for clients to make multiple, small variations to their wills through life. Executors must be confident that they are working the most recent version.
Many register their wills in order to provide their executors with peace of mind (at a potentially difficult time). The executor of a will has a duty to ensure that a testator’s final wishes are properly administered. Executors risk personal liability, to any that lose out, as a consequence of their failing in this duty.
Under Section 27 of the Trustee Act (1925) executors are able to protect themselves from claims that creditors/beneficiaries have not been notified, by taking various steps. These include, but are not limited to: placing notices in The Gazette and setting out a period of 2 months during which interested parties may submit a claim.
These steps, however, do not guard against administering the wrong will altogether! The observation below, made by Tom Dumont (Barrister) speaking to The Gazette, summarises the point well.
“…a Section 27 notice does not remove the requirement to do a will search, the two procedures serve different purposes, but work effectively and comprehensively to guard against risk. They represent a best practice approach to managing risk.”
We believe registration extremely important, if you’d like to know more about the registration of wills, visit us now at www.confidencewills.co.uk to book a free consultation.