When an executor has finalised the distribution of an estate subject to probate the relevant probate office will forward details to the public records office. The public records office based in London is responsible for keeping a record of all probate transactions and its online archive stretches back hundreds of years.
The government has recently introduced a new service that enables members of the public to search for probate records and digitised copies of Wills online at https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/
You can use this service to:
- search for a probate record in England and Wales
- check if probate has been issued
- check the type of probate issued
- order a copy of a probate record (including a will, if there is one)
Each copy of a probate record ordered online costs £1.50.
If you cannot find the record you’re looking for, check the years after the person died. These records are stored under the year the grant was issued, rather than the year of death.
This service offers some transparency to beneficiaries regards the distribution of an estate and their entitlement under the Will. This new service replaces the old paper service and various former digital probate trials held in recent decades. This is part of governments drive to make information more transparent and enable more self-service processes. Its also quit an interesting site to have a “poke around on”
A warning to Executors
Its important that you ensure good communication with beneficiaries during the probate process specifically around the distribution of the estate. You need to ensure that the estates beneficiaries understand how the Will was set out and what their entitlements were based on the estate accounts.
With more transparency comes a greater risk of misunderstanding. This can and could lead to contentious probate claims based on a beneficiary misunderstanding or indeed correctly understanding the estates distribution based on information gathered after probate has been granted.