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A person is currently suffering from a degenerative brain condition affecting memory. They have previously told their family that they did make a will, and had it stored with a solicitor in a named town. However they cannot remember which solicitor it was, and the likely time frame is 20-30 years in the past.

When this person dies, how much effort must the family put into searching for the will? Can they simply ignore its possible existence and proceed as though the person had died without making a will? If the family contact solicitors in the named town, do the solicitors have to disclose the existence or contents of the will before the death? Does it make a difference whether a family member has a lasting power of attorney?

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    "However they cannot remember which solicitor it was, and the likely time frame is 20-30 years in the past." Legally, this is irrelevant. A will remains valid until revoked. "Does it make a difference whether a family member has a lasting power of attorney?" a POA ceases to be effective upon the principal's death.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 6, 2023 at 6:20
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    @ohwilleke I understand that POAs cease upon death, but can they be used to force the solicitors to disclose the existence/contents of the will?
    – rhellen
    Jan 6, 2023 at 10:24

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As I understand it, a UK solicitor will generally not reveal the content of a will while the testator is still alive, unless the testator has specifically left instructions to do so. But the existence of a will is not protected in the same way, and might be revealed.

Once the testator has died, the family must make a reasonable effort to find a will if one exists before anyone can be appointed administrator and the estate processed on an intestate (no-will) basis.

It is good practice to keep a copy of a will where it can easily be found, such as in a safe deposit, along with a note about who has custody of the original. But not everyone does that.

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