Wills can be secretive things. If people are uncomfortable about having “death discussions” with their relatives, then those relatives might not know the whereabouts of a Will when the time comes.

Wills can be found later down the line – hidden in a book or a drawer. Or it might be assumed there was never a Will at all, so when the rightful beneficiaries according to the laws of intestacy have been located, those heirs do not inherit after all.

The Will might state, for example, that the person’s entire estate be donated to charity. Finders International has dealt with such cases in the past. Below we reference the estate of Gillian Margaret Carter, whose story was featured on BBC’s Heir Hunters.

Gillian Margaret Carter – Bona Vacantia List

Amy-Louise Moyes
Pic: Amy Moyes

Finders International Senior Case Manager, Amy Moyes, was up against stiff competition when Gillian Carter’s estate was posted on the Bona Vacantia list (the Ministry of Justice posts the details of estates on the list when people die in England and Wales and are seemingly intestate).

Travelling researchers were dispatched to where Gillian last lived in rural Wales to find out what they could from her neighbours. The office discovered Gillian’s parents had died on the same day in the run-up to Christmas some four decades earlier.

They also found a family member who had been in Egypt at the turn of the century and was known for their courageous exploits. But after a lot of research into Gillian’s family tree – independent, verified research is necessary to prove people’s relationship to the deceased in order for them to inherit – the Finders team later found out that despite Gillian Carter’s estate being advertised on the Bona Vacantia list, she had in fact left behind a valid Will.

Careful searches for Wills

We always recommend a careful search for a Will. The first port of call should be to check the home of the person who has died for the document itself or the contact details for any legal firm or solicitor.

Then, we advise people to check with the local solicitors. If someone has had legal help in the past few years – such as getting a divorce or moving home -they may have used that legal firm to create and store a copy of their Will.

You can also check the National Will Register, a large database of Wills designed to help families find the location of a Will and who made it. There are more than 8 million Wills in the system registered by solicitors and Will writers.


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