Your spouse/civil partner or unmarried partner’s original Will must be located and examined. Some people keep their Wills with solicitors or banks for safekeeping. However others simply keep their Wills amongst their personal papers. A Will typically appoints someone to act as executor and trustee; usually the same person acts as both. It also names the beneficiaries who will take the estate under the Will.
Your spouse/civil partner or unmarried partner may have appointed you to act as executor. It is the executor’s responsibility to apply for probate, to deal with the estate and to finalise the affairs of the deceased. If your spouse/civil partner or unmarried partner has nominated you to be executor, you can choose to renounce your appointment if you are unwilling or unable to act.
As executor, you have the right to select a solicitor to act on your behalf in obtaining probate and winding up the estate. Some executors prefer to instruct a solicitor to act on their behalf for a number of reasons. For example, if the estate is complicated or large, or if they simply do not have the time themselves to undertake the tasks required.
If the Will “appoints” a solicitor to act for the estate, the executor is still free to select any solicitor you feel comfortable with: you are not bound by what the Will says when it comes to appointing an executor.
If you have been nominated by your spouse/civil partner or unmarried partner as the executor, this will not disentitle you from receiving any gift under the Will.
If your spouse/civil partner or unmarried partner has nominated another person to act as executor, you should ensure that the original Will and your spouse/civil partner or unmarried partner’s financial information and personal paperwork are provided to the executor. The executor will need these documents to apply for probate and to administer the estate.
For more information about applying for probate, click here for more information.
If your spouse/civil partner or unmarried partner dies without a Will, they are said to have died “intestate”: see intestacy section for information on what will happen under an intestacy.