The Registration of Wills Bill attempts to solve the age old problem of missing wills holding up the administration of estates, but does it go far enough?
The Registration of Wills Bill, 2016 is currently in second stage Dail Eireann, having passed through the Seanad on 6 March 2016. The Bill, if enacted, amends the Civil Registration Act 2004 and establishes a ‘Registrar of Wills’ to be overseen by an tArd Chlaraitheoir (the Registrar General), who is appointed by the Minister for Finance.
Centralised Civil Register
The Bill, with retrospective effect, will allow a testator or their solicitor to register the particulars (but not the contents) of their will, to include details such as the name and address of the testator, the date of the will and the testator’s solicitor.
On the registration of the death of a testator, it will be possible to apply to tArd Chlaraitheoir establish whether or not a deceased person registered the existence of their will which will help establish who holds a will and where it is located. This would be a great improvement on the current system where a solicitor engaged by the deceased’s relatives would take out advertisements and correspond with a large number of solicitors to ascertain whether a will had been prepared.
So along with deaths, marriages and births, there will be a civil register of wills. Problem solved then? Not quite.
The effectiveness of the Bill is diluted by the fact that registration of wills going forward will not be mandatory.
As the Bill itself puts it, the Registrar of Wills will not be conclusive evidence of the existence or non-existence of a will, codicil or revocation of a will. Therefore even though an application to search the registrar can be made to an tArd Chlaraitheoir, whether or not a will had been registered cannot be taken to mean that a testator had validly created a will where none appears on the register, or later revoked a will which did.
Non-registration will not mean that a will does not exist and the usual enquiries will need to be made with the same old delays ensuing.