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DEATH KNELL FOR PUBLIC ACCESS TO WILLS

The head of the Probate Office has advised that information available to the public about the contents of wills was ‘an invasion of privacy’ and put beneficiaries ‘at risk’.

The change – which was approved recently by the President of the High Court, Richard Johnson – now prevents members of the public or the media getting access to the details of the deceased’s estate unless they are a direct beneficiary of a will. This is a change to the established practice of the past 42 years.

The President of the High Court issued a ‘practice direction’ to the Probate Office that a document known as the Inland Revenue Affidavit, which lists details of property and other assets, can now only be inspected by people who benefit from a will, or a Government official who has a legitimate interest in its contents.

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