How probate searching can be messy business

You can be certain of one thing in life and that’s death. 

Yet so many people avoid thinking or planning for their demise. They either don’t make a will at all or make a will and promptly file it away in a drawer never to be thought about again.

When the inevitable happens, it’s then left to those left behind to sort out what can often be a messy state of affairs involving a lengthy probate search and trace.

The process of sorting out a deceased person’s possessions, finances and property – collectively known as the estate – is called probate.

For some, probate and a probate will search can be a traumatic time. Not only are they having to deal with their grief, but also the nightmare of having to trace people named in the will who may have moved house multiple times, emigrated to a different country, got married, divorced, changed names or have themselves died. 

Probate search process

The value of professional probate search services 

In the UK, the person tasked with overseeing probate and the probate registry search will need a grant of representation, a document that gives them the legal right to deal with the estate. 

There are two types of probate grant of representation documents. 

  • If the deceased left a will and appointed an executor, that person will need to apply for a 'grant of probate'. 
  • If there is no will, the next of kin must apply for what is known as a 'grant of letters of administration' in order to be able to start the probate and search process.

Their next job involves:

  • Gathering assets like money in bank accounts
  • Settling outstanding bills left by the deceased
  • Distributing what is remaining according to instructions in the will.

Most people going through probate use the services of a probate lawyer. When it comes to the probate search, locating people named in a will in order to honour the wishes of the deceased person, can prove tricky and time-consuming. 

In cases like this, the solicitors will usually hire a professional probate search service firm like Vilcol. 

In one probate search case, we were contacted by a woman trying to establish the truth behind a number of people claiming to be entitled to part of her deceased father’s estate. The people said they were relatives of her step-mother who was from the Far East and had also died. 

The case was extraordinarily complex because there was also a step-sibling to consider. The protracted case spanned ten years and was a stressful encounter for the woman. 

We will always give the best, most trusted advice that is most suited to each individual case. In this instance, we advised her not to instruct Vilcol because of the costs that international people tracing involves. Instead, we outlined the cultural factors that could help explain the complicated nature of her father's will. The woman was eventually able to reach a satisfactory conclusion through her probate lawyers. 

This case is a good example of how complex some probate search requests can be. You can read more about it here.

Mourner with flowers - probate searching

Trusted and accredited probate search agency 

Vilcol will sometimes receive a probate search brief naming ten people, none of whom have responded to the solicitors’ attempts at tracing them. 

We always attempt to find people quickly and efficiently. 

Vilcol is an ISO-accredited probate search agency which means we abide by high standards and are fully committed to quality customer care. Probate lawyers know that by instructing Vilcol, their search of probate records will be in safe hands.

How to search probate records 

There are a number of ways to trace people as part of the probate search process and a specialist tracing agency knows how to search probate records using methods that are not available to everyone. 

A Standard Probate Search is used when the will has been made within the last ten years, in which case the information contained within is usually accurate

The Enhanced Probate Search Service is for cases where the will is more than ten years old. This service means a number of probate searches can be carried out on the people named in the will. 

And the Probate and Family Trace and Search Service uses more than 20 different search engines as well as in-house enquiries from one of our award-winning investigators.

This particular probate search service can also draw from the expertise of a genealogist if there are a number of beneficiaries and the case is complicated. 

If you're looking for wills and probate search expertise from trusted professionals, call Vilcol on 0208 390 9988.

Probate & probate search after someone dies

Probate and probate search FAQs

What does a probate search in the UK show?

A search of probate records in the UK will show the legal documents that relate to the distribution of the deceased person's collective assets – their estate - after they die. Information noted in a wills and probate search could include the date of death, names of beneficiaries, relatives, relationships, addresses, inventories of the estate and witness names.

What is a standing search in probate?

A standing search in probate is when you can check if probate has been applied for. If you believe it has been applied for on the estate of someone who has died within the last six months, you can apply for a Standing Search at the probate registry. After probate has been issued, you will have the ability to view the will. If no will has been made, you will need to follow the rules of intestacy.

How do I find someone’s will?

The first and obvious thing you should do if someone dies and you are unsure if they have left a will is to search the house. This is usually the place where people store their will or a copy of it. If that does not turn up the document, you could ask their bank, their solicitor or conduct a will search.