Withdraw a will from safe keeping

What documents can be deposited for safe keeping?
Is there a charge for withdrawing a will or codicil from safe keeping?
Who can withdraw a will from safe keeping?
How do I apply to withdraw a will from safe keeping?
I believe that the deceased may have left a will with the High Court for safe keeping. Can I carry out a search to check?

What documents can be deposited for safe keeping?

A will, or a codicil (a testamentary document modifying a will), or both together can be lodged with the High Court of Justice for safe keeping. The fee for depositing a will or codicil is £20 - for further details on depositing a will (or codicil) please ask for the leaflet 'I want to deposit my will for safe keeping at the Principal Registry of the Family Division'

All will/codicils are deposited with the High Court pursuant to Section 126 of the Senior Courts Act 1981, and once deposited fall under the control and direction of the High Court. The procedures for depositing and withdrawing those documents from safe keeping are set by statute, and accordingly those procedures must be strictly followed. Please bear this in mind if you make an application to withdraw a document

Is there a charge for withdrawing a will or codicil from safe keeping?

No. There is no charge for withdrawing a will from safe keeping.

Throughout the remainder of this form the term 'will' is used, however, the same procedure applies if you are withdrawing a will, and/or a codicil.

Who can withdraw a will from safe keeping?

In the lifetime of the testator (i.e. the person who made the will) only the testator can apply to withdraw the will. After the death of the testator one (or more) of the executors can apply. An executor is a person appointed in the will to carry out the terms of the will. Exceptionally if there are no executors then others can apply, but in such circumstances the permission of a District Judge is required to ensure that the will is given to the correct person.

The Record Keeper must ensure that the will is handed to the correct person. Upon receipt of proof of death the deposit envelope containing the will is opened. In all cases before a will is withdrawn from safe keeping it must be established that the person who is applying is actually the person (or one of the people) entitled to receive the will in accordance with the rules and statutes governing probate practice.

If you wish to find out more about the rules and statutes governing probate practice, details can be found in the following book which should be available in your local reference library - Tristram and Cootes, 'Probate Practice', 30th Edition.

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How do I apply to withdraw a will from safe keeping?

The following information gives full details of how to withdraw a will from safe keeping either in the lifetime of the testator or after death.

How to withdraw your own will from safe keeping

  • If you do not already have a withdrawal form a form can be obtained from the Record Keepers Department, Principal Registry of the Family Division (address and telephone number given at the end of this table).
  • Complete the withdrawal form in full.
  • Send the withdrawal form and your original certificate of deposit to:
  • Record Keeper's Department
    Principal Registry of the Family Division
    First Avenue House
    42 - 49 High Holborn
    London WC1V 6NP
    (Tel: 020 7947 7022)

  • If you are unable to locate your original certificate of deposit you must write a letter to the Record Keeper explaining that you have carried out a thorough search but have been unable to locate the original certificate of deposit AND that should the original be found at a later date you will forward it immediately. That letter should then be sent to the Record Keeper's Department.
  • Subject to the correct forms being received your will shall be returned to you by registered or recorded delivery.
  • You must complete the acknowledgement of receipt form and return it to the Record Keepers Dept (address given above).
  • The withdrawal process has been completed.

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How to withdraw a will after the death of the testator

  • If you do not already have a withdrawal form a form can be obtained from the Record Keeper's Department, Principal Registry of the Family Division.
  • You must check that you are entitled to apply to withdraw the will.
  • Are you one of the executors?
  • If not, you may not be able to withdraw the will from safe keeping, and you may wish to check before making the application to avoid disappointment
  • Complete the withdrawal form in full
  • Send the withdrawal form, with an official copy of the death certificate (photocopies are not acceptable unless they have been certified as being true and correct by a solicitor) and the original certificate of deposit to:
  • Record Keeper's Department
    Principal Registry of the Family Division
    First Avenue House
    42 - 49 High Holborn
    London
    WC1V 6NP
    Telephone: 020 7947 7022

  • If you are unable to locate the original certificate of deposit you must write a letter to the Record Keeper explaining that you have carried out a thorough search but have been unable to locate the original certificate of deposit AND that should the original be found at a later date you will forward it immediately. That letter should then be sent to the Record Keeper's Department.
  • Subject to the correct forms being received and entitlement to withdraw the will being confirmed the will shall be sent to you by registered or recorded delivery.
  • You must complete the acknowledgement of receipt form and return it to the Record Keeper's Department.
  • The withdrawal process has been completed.

I believe that the deceased may have left a will with the High Court for safe keeping. Can I carry out a search to check?

Yes. Send in an official copy of the death certificate (or a photocopy that has been certified by a solicitor as being true and correct) with a letter asking for a search to be made of the safe custody wills register. Address your letter to:

Safe Custody Clerk
Record Keeper's Department
First Avenue House
42-49, High Holborn
London,
WC1V 6NP

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