We are always advising our clients of the necessity of making a Will and having a Power of Attorney but recent information published by the Financial Times has highlighted that it is also very important that your family knows where these important documents can be located.
Some banks used to offer a “Safe Custody” service. Lloyds Bank previously offered such a service to their customers but discontinued this in 2011 to new customers. However, the bank recently discovered a depository of some 190,000 papers including approximately 9,000 Wills still in storage with some envelopes not being able to be matched up with bank customers. In the case of Wills, this is of course a disastrous situation for executors and indeed families who may have already wound up the estate of a deceased person using the wrong Will.
This state of affairs is not as bad as it could have been, with the bank claiming that in 90% of cases the Wills in storage had been superseded by a new Will, copies of some Wills were available and in certain cases where the estate was declared intestate it had been distributed in line with the instructions contained in the original Will, so no harm was done.
But of course there have been issues where the estates of some customers have been distributed to the wrong beneficiaries giving rise to claims of negligence against Lloyds Bank as well as tax disputes. Lloyds said “We are investigating each case individually and where appropriate making contact with representatives of these estates. We are deeply sorry for the distress and inconvenience this has caused and will ensure that those affected are fully compensated.”
STEP’s Technical Counsel, Emily Deane TEP, said, “This is a disappointing and concerning story which raises an important issue. We would advise against people storing a will in a bank safety deposit box because it will not be accessible to the executor until they get probate-and this cannot be granted without a will.”
“If someone has an existing will stored in this way we would recommend moving it elsewhere to ensure it is accessible and its whereabouts is known to their executor(s) in the event of your death.”
The lesson to be learned here is that if anything happens to your Will or if your executor doesn’t know where to find it you might as well not have written one. The safest option is to store your Will with your solicitor. We offer a free Will storage service. Please contact Elizabeth Baker on 0141 552 3422 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org if this service may be of interest to you and do remember to let your executor know where your Will is.