A client should be advised that a will would be useless if it cannot be located after death. Point 16 of the Wills and Inheritance Protocol ('the Protocol') provides the following guidance on the storage of new and previous wills:
'16.1. Explain to the client the importance of informing those who will deal with the administration of the estate of the location of the will. Recommend the use of the Law Society's personal assets log, or similar document to convey this information, and consider with the client the option to use a wills registration service.
16.2 Inform the client that wills can be stored with:
(a) the will drafter's practice, if offering the service
(b) the Probate Registry under the Senior Courts Act 1981 s.126
(c) a bank
(d) the client
(e) a commercial provider
16.3 Discuss with the client what is to happen to previous wills to ensure that there is a record of previous testamentary dispositions while limiting the risk of a revoked will being proved by mistake.
16.4 If the will drafter's practice operates a storage facility:
(a) ensure that the client understands that use of the service is not compulsory
(b) make clear the basis of any charges
(c) ensure that any charges are fair and reasonable
(d) provide the client with a copy of the will and a note to be kept with the copy explaining where the original is stored
(e) inform clients if the practice changes its name or ceases trading or ceases to offer a will storage facility
(f) ensure that there is an efficient registration system so that wills can be retrieved when required
(g) ensure that wills are stored securely in appropriate conditions and
(h) limit persons who can access wills'
For further information, please see the Law Society's Wills and Inheritance Protocol (PDF 667kb).
The adoption of the Protocol, insofar as it is appropriate to the matter and in the best interests of the client, is mandatory for members of the Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme (WIQS) and voluntary for all other members of the Law Society.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority's (SRA) guidance on drafting and preparation of wills 2014 also emphasises the importance of making sure that the client understands the significance of making sure that the executors know where to locate the will following the client's death. It also suggests that it may be in the client's best interests to store a will with the Probate Registry.
For further information on file storage please also see the Law Society's practice note: File retention: wills and probate.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.