Q&A: How can I track down a relative’s will?

Dominic Coyle answers your personal finance questions

Since 1992, all wills are available to any member of the public on the courts website: https://www.courts.ie/probate-register-online

Since 1992, all wills are available to any member of the public on the courts website: https://www.courts.ie/probate-register-online

 

I’m wondering if you’d have a little advice for me regarding obtaining old wills. I am trying to source my grandparents’ wills to see what was divided between their children. They passed in the 1970s. I assume it would be a case of either contacting the national archives or local probate court?

I gather that wills used to be available to the public but that that is no longer the case.

Mr P.McA., email

Wills are a source of endless fascination in Ireland. Part of this clearly can be attributed to some executor being more absolutist than necessary in not disclosing contents of wills to people who might have an interest until probate has been granted. And part is down to natural curiosity among people over how families have passed wealth among generations down the years as well as fractures among members of the families over that time.

You are one of two readers to raise the issue of accessing wills this week.

The good news is, first, that in Ireland all wills are public documents once they have gone to probate. Even better, we have a very user friendly way of doing so.

Since 1992, all wills are available to any member of the public on the courts website: https://www.courts.ie/probate-register-online.

You can search for the details of the will of anyone who has died at http://probate.courts.ie/probate.nsf. This will ask for three bits of information – the person’s first name, their last name and the year in which they died.

Having all three narrows things down helpfully but the search function will work off any one of the filters. However, while you might find what you’re looking for quickly enough if the name of the person you are searching for is not too common – such as Coyle maybe – it could be altogether more difficult with a Murphy, an O’Brien or a Kelly.

So the more info, the better.

The key thing once you find the relevant entry is the Record Number. This has three elements. The first four numerals are the year in which probate was granted (not the year the person died). The next two letters refer to the probate office that handled the will. This will be PO for the main probate office in Dublin. A list of the two-letter codes for other district probate offices is on the probate office register site – for instance MR for Mullingar or LD for Letterkenny. The final six digits are the individual case identifier.

You’ll need the whole record number to apply for a copy of the will from the relevant probate office.

There is a link on that web page also for the form you’ll need to fill out to secure a copy of the document. An official copy of the will costs €15.

But what about historic cases predating 1992. They are still available but you will need to go instead to the national archives.You can search online for details of wills dating from 1858 through to 1982.

You can search either with the details of the person, when they died etc or pull up a full list of people for whom wills are available in any given year at https://www.nationalarchives.ie/article/wills-and-administrations/ by entering the phrase “wills 1970”, or whatever year you wish.

It appears that, for the years between 1983 and 1991 inclusive, you cannot just pull up a full set of wills gone to probate in those years to browse but must have the individual’s details to track down the records.

Again, once you have a copy of the details, you can, for a fee, secure a copy of the actual will. It might take a couple of weeks to process.

Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or email dcoyle@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice. No personal correspondence will be entered into

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