Most people understand how important it is to create their last will as they get older or their affairs become more complex. Consequently, they may create such a document well in advance of the day that they actually pass and follow all appropriate and proper procedures to ensure that it is valid. Yet, complications can arise due to the passage of time, and it's not unheard of for the will to be misplaced. So, what can you do if you are an executor and are now searching high and low for that document on that fateful day?

The Fallback Assumption

In the worst-case scenario, a court will determine that the will-maker did not want that particular document to be used. The fact that it is missing means that they had not taken the appropriate steps to present it as evidence, and the entire matter will be treated as "intestate."

Of course, it's equally possible that the will has simply been lost and that the only person who really knows where it is could be the deceased.

How To Perform A Comprehensive Search

Still, you can take certain steps before accepting the inevitable. Get in touch with the deceased's financial advisers, bank managers, accountants, lawyers or other professionals who may have been involved in the creation of the will in some part. Don't be afraid to go back to other professionals in the area, who may have done some business with the deceased over time. It's best to leave no stone unturned as you try and uncover this document so it can be processed. Some people even go so far as to place an advertisement in a local newspaper to try and jog someone's memory.

How To Deal With A Copy Of The Will

If you think that you've had an "aha" moment when you find a copy of the will, think again. Unfortunately, this is not valid, as it will not have the wet signatures of the witnesses as required by law. In most cases, an original will be stapled and permanently bound together, making it very difficult to tamper with. Photocopies or digital records will not be admissible, as there will always be questions about their validity and whether or not the will-maker decided to destroy the original.

Letters Of Administration

So, if you cannot locate the original, you will need to apply to the court for letters of administration instead of a grant of probate. You will then follow a more involved and detailed process, which is set out in the laws relating to intestacy.

Additional Help

If you want additional information and legal help in dealing with this tricky situation, ensure that you engage the services of a family law service.