Did you know your will becomes a public document?

Prince Philip has been back in the headlines of late as the BBC airs a documentary of his life on what would have been his 100th birthday. But, the passing of Prince Philip has also brought something else to light - the privacy of documents, like wills, after probate has passed.

A will is executed at the time of death and expresses the wishes of the deceased in relation to property and assets, how they should be divided and who should own them. At the point the deceased passes away, the will can only be read by the executors named in the will.

However, so that those assets can be divided legally in line with the will, executors must apply to the Probate Registry, so that they can grant probate.

As soon as that probate has been issued, your will would then become a public document, meaning anyone can view or obtain a copy of it. This applies to the current will only, any previous or draft wills do not apply and are therefore not published.

There are some instances of course where probate is not needed and therefore the will would remain private - for example where there is a small estate or little or no value in assets.

The other exception is Prince Philip, it seems, as the High Court has now ruled his will is to remain private. According to an article on the BBC it has been a convention for courts to seal the wills after the death of a senior member of the Royal Family - and it’s been that way for over a century.

It means that, unlike most wills granted probate, it will not be open to public inspection - however, there will be a private process in 90 years to decide if it can be unsealed.

By making wills public, it gives others the chance to read them and even contest them - which is why it is really important to speak to your family about your wishes before signing your will, as it can save a lot of heartache for families after you pass away.

If you would like some advice relating to your will, or you are currently going through probate and would like legal guidance, contact Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Victoria Evans

Victoria Evans

Senior Associate Solicitor

Tel: +44 (0) 1483 411512

Office: Godalming Office

Email: v.evans@downslaw.co.uk