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How To Find A Will

How To Find Out If Someone Had A Will

What happens if a loved one dies and you don’t know where their will is?

They may have written their will many years ago. But what happens if the solicitor who helped them draft that will is no longer practising? What if their law firm has been taken over?

Coles Miller’s wills solicitors may be able to help you.

Wills Stored With Coles Miller Solicitors

Law firms are governed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). So if a firm ceases to trade or merges with another firm, all its stored wills will be transferred to another regulated firm.

This ensures that your will – and those of your loved ones – remain secure. Find out more here about how we store clients’ wills securely for free.

Coles Miller is a long-established Dorset law firm that has acquired the business of a number of solicitors over the years. They include:

  • JW Miller, which had offices in Broadstone and Poole. This merger took place in 1989.
  • Sole practitioner Ronald Oxley, who was based in Wimborne.
  • Mills Bushnell in Charminster (this firm had previously taken over Steven Wilkes and Co). This merger was in 1992.
  • Derek T Wilkinson & Co, giving Coles Miller its West Cliff, Bournemouth office, in 2007.  

So if the will you need was drafted by lawyers at any of these firms, it is now stored safely with Coles Miller and we will be happy to help you with probating the will.

What If The Will Were Stored Somewhere Else?

The person who made the will is called the testator. If they have died without telling you where the will is, the first step is to search through all their belongings.

If they were an organised person, it will probably be filed away in a safe place. If not, it could be anywhere in a jumble of papers, documents and other possessions.

Failing that, contact the deceased’s solicitor. If you don’t know who that is, and if it’s not listed in any of their documents, the paperwork may still provide clues.

The bank is an obvious place to start – but this is not as simple as it sounds. If the will were stored in a safe deposit box, the bank needs to see a deed of probate before they will open it. And you can’t get probate without a will. It’s an unfortunate dilemma.

Perhaps other professionals – such as estate agents, mortgage brokers or independent financial advisers – acted for the deceased in the years before they died. Their paperwork may provide clues as to which firm of solicitors the deceased generally used.

There are also various will registries. The National Will Register (and Certainty Will Search service) is the one preferred by the Law Society, the independent professional body for solicitors in England and Wales. The register contains more than 10 million wills. It is used by thousands of solicitors every day. Contact us for help with will searches.

What If I Can’t Find the Will?

If the will cannot be found, it is considered lost, and the estate will be dealt with as if the deceased died intestate (ie, without a will). 

A will is not legally considered lost until a certain period of time has passed after the testator's death. In England and Wales, this is generally considered to be 10 years. Until this time has passed, a will can still be located and considered valid.

How We Can Help You

Coles Miller’s highly experienced wills and probate team includes solicitors accredited by:

  • The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) – a global professional body that helps families to plan for the future. Learn how a STEP solicitor can help you.
  • Solicitors for the Elderly – a select group of lawyers who specialise in helping older and vulnerable clients.
  • Dementia Friends – an Alzheimer’s Society programme that helps us to make the law easier to understand for people affected by dementia.

We can help you with making a will, probate, Inheritance Tax planning, powers of attorney, care home funding, Court of Protection matters, trusts and charities.


Contact our Wills and Probate solicitors for expert legal advice


Need more information?

Get expert legal advice on making or reviewing your will, probate and estates, Inheritance Tax and trusts.

Meet the team

Anthony Weber

Partner and Head of Wills & Probate

Antonia Chan

Trainee Solicitor

Christine Vaughan


David Parfitt

Coles Miller Consultant

Emma Stagg

Private Client Executive

Holly Munro


Jasmine Payne

Trainee Solicitor

Jenny Oxley

Associate Solicitor

Julie Morgan

Trainee Legal Executive (ACILEx)

Kerry Hay

Associate Solicitor

Lucy Hingston

Trusts Executive

Marie Harder


Ricky Langlois


Shadi Meehan

Trainee Legal Executive

Stephen Peck


Sunshine Malama


Adele Jones

Legal Secretary

Alexandra Sagan

Legal Secretary

Barbara Gillings

Legal Secretary

Bercim Temel

Legal Secretary

Carol Patrick

Legal Secretary

Diane Bridle


Grace Sheehy

Trainee Solicitor

Mari Swain


Shirley Ellis

Legal Secretary

Sophie Lawson

Legal Secretary

Suzy Trickett

Legal Secretary

Zoe Stynes - Maternity Leave

Legal Secretary

Jocelyn Brown

Legal Secretary

Susan Burgess

Legal Secretary