How toIdentify if there is a Will or Letter of Wishes

Funeral Planning Information » What to Do When Someone Dies » Identifying if there is a Will or Letter of Wishes

Why it is Important to Know

Knowing whether there is a Will or Letter of Wishes is important because this will inform who to contact and what steps to take next. It will also be important in identifying and fulfilling the deceased’s wishes regarding funeral choices.

How to Find the Will

This isn’t always straight forward. The person may have told someone close to them whether or not they have a Will and, if there is, where it is kept.

If this is not the case, then it might be amongst their possessions or in their files at home. Or, if they have a solicitor or a bank account, ask them whether they have a copy.

There are also Will search services. Try the The National Will Register.

If There is a Will

If there is a Will, you will need to contact the executors. They are usually responsible for applying for probate (see below) and then settling the financial affairs of the person who has died (paying outstanding taxes and debts, then distributing the remaining estate to those who are entitled to it). For further details, view the Government information about wills, probate and inheritance.

If There Isn’t a Will

If someone dies intestate (without a valid Will), the next of kin will need to apply to be an administrator of the estate. This is the same as applying for probate. For further details, view the Government information on dying intestate.

Either the next of kin or the executor can register the death, appoint a funeral director and arrange the funeral. If there is no next of kin, the executor should undertake these tasks and vice versa. If there is neither an executor nor next of kin, usually the local County Council will be responsible for making the necessary arrangements.

What is a Letter of Wishes?

A Letter of Wishes is a supplementary document which gives additional information on what the deceased would like to happen after their death. This might include, for example, arrangements for their funeral or perhaps special requests regarding distribution of their personal possessions. 

Whilst a Letter of Wishes is not legally binding, most relatives or friends will, as much as is possible or practical, want to comply with the wishes of the person who has died.

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