Does the Law Society publish any guidance on how long a client's original will should be retained?
Yes. The Law Society has published a practice note on file retention of wills and probate. This states:
An original will stored by you is the property of the client and after the client's death, it is the property of the estate.
You should store the original will until after the death of the client, or until you are able to return the original to the client.
Some firms keep wills indefinitely, while others have a policy of holding the original will for fifty years from the date of its creation. There is no absolute rule, but you should always err on the side of caution, even if you believe or know that a later will has been made.
Before destruction of any original will, you must consult the client. You should inform them that occasionally the validity of a subsequent will might be challenged and then a prior will might be proved as the last will of the deceased.
It is also possible that in cases where a will is challenged, undue influence is alleged, or where an Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 claim is made, an earlier revoked will may be produced as evidence of a settled or disturbed pattern of behaviour or thought by the testator. If a will is revoked you should keep a copy in your records.
For further information, please see the Law Society's practice note on file retention: wills and probate.
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.
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