Documents to download

This paper deals with the position in England and Wales.


In this briefing paper:

  • “testator” means the person who has written a will;
  • “personal representatives” means the people who administer the estate of the deceased; and
  • “beneficiary” means a person who receives property under the will.

Before probate is granted

In general, a will is a private document unless and until a grant of probate is issued.

While the testator is still alive, with limited exceptions, nobody other than the testator is entitled to receive a copy of the will.

Following the testator’s death, unless and until probate is granted, the will remains a private document although the executors named in the will are entitled to see it. 

After probate is granted

Once a grant of probate has been issued, a will becomes a public document and anyone can apply to have a copy. Search probate records for documents and wills (England and Wales) – GOV.UK ( provides information about searching for probate records, either online or by post.

If there is no grant of probate

In some cases, it is not necessary to apply for a grant – for example if the estate is very small. In these circumstances, the personal representatives may choose to send a copy of the will to the main beneficiaries.

Documents to download

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