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Wills and probate: a recent lesson

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It was worrying to read recently that Lloyds Bank has discovered thousands of customers’ wills stored in its ‘safe custody’ service, which was closed to new customers in 2011. As some of those wills could not be matched to existing customers, the suggestion is that there are families and executors who may have administered a deceased person’s estate on the basis that there was no will or using the wrong will, not knowing that a will was held by the bank. In practice, this could mean that some estates have been distributed to the wrong beneficiaries.

Whilst Lloyds has already announced that it will compensate those affected, including covering their legal costs, this situation is a good reminder to anyone making a will (or indeed, anyone who already has one) that it really is very important to inform your executors and/or your family of its whereabouts and to make sure that it’s stored in an easily accessible place.

Emily Deane, who is Technical Counsel for the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners, advises people against storing wills in bank safety deposit boxes because of the difficulty of accessing them after a death. The bank will require sight of a Grant of Probate to allow them to release any items in safe custody. However, it will not be possible to take out the Grant of Probate without the will.

Need help?

Larking Gowen is licensed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) to undertake probate work. We can manage the whole process, from taking out the Grant of Probate, administering the estate, finalising the taxes and preparing the accounts, or we can give advice and help to families who wish to do most of the work themselves.

If you need advice on making a will, taking out a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration, the administration of a deceased’s estate, inheritance tax or the tax affairs of a deceased individual, please speak to me or your usual Larking Gowen contact.

Call 0330 024 0888 or email

Ian Webster


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Larking Gowen

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