Lloyds discovers 9000 wills not passed to deceased families

Will storage

In October last year Lloyds Bank revealed that, due to a storage mishap, they had found 9000 wills that needed to be reunited with families after discovering them in ‘Safe Custody’. The storage has been closed to new customers since 2011. Whilst many have been superseded by newer wills, or settled via the intestacy process but in line with the deceased wishes, it is estimated that hundreds of families will be affected by this error.

The impact of this is that people may find that money and other assets were handed to the wrong beneficiaries, requiring significant amounts of disentangling to ensure that these last wishes are distributed correctly. Lloyds have promised those affected will be fully compensated, including covering any new legal costs and have reassured those affected that nothing already distributed will be clawed back from the incorrect beneficiaries.

It is likely, however, that the failure of Lloyds to trace wills after a person sadly passed away will have caused many people distress at a time of great sadness. In addition it could have led to contentious probate claims, negligence claims and issues with tax payments that could have been avoided.

It demonstrates the problems with storing wills in bank safety deposits. Emily Deane, technical counsel at the STEP trade body of inheritance professionals, says: ‘This is a disappointing and concerning story which raises an important issue. We would advise people against storing a will in a bank safety deposit box because it will not be accessible to the executor until they get probate – and this cannot be granted without a will.’

Current advice is then to ensure that your will is stored somewhere accessible and its whereabouts known to the executors. Storage with a solicitor or with the Probate Service are therefore recommended options. It also highlights the importance of having your will updated as required to ensure it is still relevant as circumstances change, and ensuring it is known where the most up to date version of your will is stored.

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