Getting a Copy of a Will
Obtaining your document
Almost all Wills proved and Grants of Representation (whether there was a Will or not) issued in England & Wales since 1858 are available to the general public. However if the estate was small a Grant may not have been needed, in which case there will be no public record even if there was a Will. It is worth noting that there is no time limit from the date of death within which a Grant has to be obtained.
If you want to find a copy of the Grant of Representation and the Will (if there was one) you will need to search the Probate Calendar [National Index] to see if a grant was ever issued. There is a calendar for every year from 1858 (either in book form [to 1973], microfiche [1973-1996], or on computer [1996 onwards]). Entries are made in the Calendar in the year that the Grant was issued (which is not necessarily the same as the year the person died) and are arranged alphabetically by surname.
The only place where there is a complete set of Calendars is at the Principal Probate Registry in London. There are also 11 District Probate Registries where you should find Calendars covering the last 50 years or so. If you make the search yourself there is no charge, but it is recommended to contact the Registry beforehand to check what they have available for inspection.
If you cannot get to the Registry yourself you can write and ask the Registry officials to make the search for you. You have to write to
The Postal Searches & Copies Dept,
York Probate Sub-Registry
Ideally the information they will need will be the full name, address and date of death of the deceased, requesting the years to be searched and the appropriate fee. This is £5, which covers the four year period from the date of death, plus £3 for each subsequent 4 year period. If a grant is traced, the fee includes a copy of the Grant and Will (if any). If you do not have all the information then the Officials will do what they can, provided you have at least the correct full name.
If the death has occurred recently and you cannot locate the Grant, then it is possible to request a Standing Search. This is valid for 6 months and if the Grant is issued within that time you will automatically receive a copy. You can extend the Standing Search for 6 month periods for as long as you like. The fee each time is £5.
Once you have found the relevant Grant you can order copies at the Principal Probate Registry or at any of the District Probate Registries. You will need to state the full name of the deceased, the date of the Grant, the Registry where it was issued (all of which will be in the Calendar entry), what copies you want and pay the appropriate fee [in person £5 for the first and £1 for subsequent copies; by post £5 for each estate]. The Registry's aim is to supply copies within 21 days.
Payment should be made by cheque or postal order to HMCS. If applying from outside the UK payment needs to be by international money order in pounds sterling.
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