Very often we advise clients who have made their Wills to ensure that their documents are stored safely and securely. But what happens if a Will is damaged and what would the Probate Registry define as ‘interference’ with the Will?
The reason the Probate Registry are keen to see a pristine original Will is that they are looking for any signs of interference with the Will after it’s execution. Examples that they will look for are
- If there is an indentation on the Will such as a paperclip mark
- A staple mark on the Will
- Signs of burning or tearing
- The Will has been unbound
The Probate Registry need to be satisfied that nothing has been removed from the Will such as an additional Codicil changing the terms of the Will or some kind of statement of wishes which may support the interpretation of the Will. If there is a staple mark or paperclip mark with nothing attached, the Probate Registry will essentially need to be assured that, for example, a disgruntled beneficiary hasn’t attempted to remove something from the Will which could be to their advantage.
If the Will has been burnt or torn in some way, the Probate Registry will need to investigate that this wasn’t due to an intention of the testator (the person who made the Will) to revoke it by attempting to destroy it.
If your clients Will has been accidentally damaged, the safest route to take is to request a further copy for them to sign and have witnessed and securely store it. If someone is in possession of a Will belonging to someone who has passed away, and the Will appears to have been accidentally marked or damaged, it may be that an Affidavit of Plight and Condition or a Statement of Truth will need to be provided to the Probate Registry before it can be accepted.
Beneficial Family Wills provides a Document Safe Custody service which enables you to send your clients signed Will to us and we can check it has been signed and witnessed correctly. We shall then store the Will in a fire retardant and protected secure location that will provide assurance of minimal risk of damage to your client’s document. We also register the location of the Will with Certainty, the National Will Register to ensure it can always be found by your Executors in the future.