Why should you Will Search first?
Chess strategy is concerned with the evaluation of chess positions and with setting up goals and long-term plans for the future play. Every move has a consequence on the final position. To a degree, this is similar to distributing an estate. For many solicitors, Certainty Will Search is a common place procedure. It helps them to understand right at the start of the estate administration process whether a Will exists or not. This gives clarity on who the rightful beneficiaries are. In light of OFR, COLP, risk management and consumer feedback, getting it wrong can have serious game changing consequences.
In a recent study, Certainty in conjunction with a leading national firm back checked intestate estates. Certainty performed a Will search on each estate to ascertain if a Will existed and if therefore the deceased had actually died intestate.
The result was alarming. In 30% of cases the Certainty Will searches uncovered Wills! So just what does this mean to you as a professional. The study demonstrates that a Will can be lost, remain untraced or destroyed. It also demonstrates that taking it on face value from the client or making an assumption that a Will did not exist could be a risk you may not want to take. Indeed the only person who really knows whether they wrote a Will or not is now deceased. The only document which can prove who the rightful beneficiaries are, is the Will.
Implementing a Will search using Certainty is very easy and is a low cost disbursement. In addition it is now an accredited and recognised process. Certainty Will search is not only accredited by the legal profession but appears as best practice guidance in the Law Society’s Probate Practitioners Handbook, a Lexis Nexis and PLC Practice Note, referenced by leading legal speakers and now PII insurers state that not being able to prove a thorough Will search was undertaken is a risk. However most importantly, today for 1000s of solicitors Certainty Will search is a normalised process undertaken at the beginning of the probate process to protect and reduce risk for the client, firm, PR’s, Executors and Beneficiaries.
The majority of clients placed in a position of intestacy would rather try to discover the last wishes of the deceased through a thorough and recommended Will search process - if they do not want to understand if a Will exists, then alarm bells should ring and you should consider your position carefully. The fact is that the majority of the public are quite used to taking preventative searches, they would not buy a second hand car without first doing a HPI check and back in the legal world, in conveyancing we are all thankful that the Land Registry exists and can be searched.