Too Many Wills Languish In Storage Unused

Almost all law firms have admitted to having stored Wills that have not been called upon after the death of the testator.

98% of respondents in a recent National Will Register survey, carried out by Certainty, had found historic Wills in their stored banks had not been called upon by the executor, beneficiaries or family members after the death of the testator.

Potentially, this means that the final wishes of the deceased are flouted because the Will is never recovered before the estate is distributed. It also leaves the Will bank and executor exposed and vulnerable if the express wishes of the testator are ignored.

Recently, Lloyds Banking Group discovered thousands of Wills that they did not know they had which caused irrevocable disruption to hundreds of bereaved families as countless estates were incorrectly distributed.

The immense Wills storage slip-up left Lloyds scurrying to put right their huge mistake by reuniting approximately 9,000 families with their loved one’s Wills.

Following the bank’s blunder, families were faced with the fact that substantial amounts of money and various other assets have potentially been bequeathed to the wrong beneficiaries. Due to their disastrous error, Lloyds will now have to painstakingly unravel old bequests to make sure that the assets were distributed correctly.

Although Lloyds confirmed that the number of customers impacted was in the low hundreds, the issue has thrown up huge concerns for the sector and the potential for legal service professionals to stand accused of negligence if a Will in their care is never acted upon following the testator’s death.

Lloyds bank has since promised the customers, who suffered detriment from the inheritance upheaval, that they will be ‘fully compensated’ by covering any legal costs incurred and that those beneficiaries who wrongly received money and assets will not be forced to give it back.

Many Law firms and Will writers, using a Will bank to store the vital documents, could easily be found in a similar situation. Unable to constantly monitor the mortality of all clients, the process of ensuring the document is repatriated with the family, beneficiary or executor upon death becomes a very difficult process.

Furthermore, Lloyds confirmed that the majority of the Wills in their care had been revoked by newer versions, and other copies had been stored in a different locations – or were dealt with through the probate process and followed the testator’s final wishes.

It is therefore imperative that legal service practitioners, storing Wills, ensure adequate due diligence to avoid accusations of negligence and ensure the final wishes of the testator are enacted.

Encouraging the testator to register their Will on the National Will Register could nullify the accountability of legal service professionals and provide the executor, beneficiary or family member with an easy and accessible source to locate the Will.

Similarly, when so many Wills could supersede the document held, the legal service professional use a Certainty Will Search and place the search report on the client file to successfully ascertain whether the Will in their care is the most current and up to date document. This will demonstrate due diligence procedures, protect the executor and ensure that the final express wishes of the deceased are considered and executed.

What processes does your law firm or Will writing business put in place to ensure the Will is repatriated? Do you ensure full due diligence is put in place to mitigate oversights and accusations of negligence? 

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