Tuesday 1 March 2005 3.47pm
I think there is some super-duper new system recently launched to provide copies of wills within the hour. I'm not guaranteeing that it actually works...
2002 Court Service Press Release follows...
WHERE THERE''S A WILL THERES A WAY
36/02 4 February 2002
Modernising Government - launch of new high-tech storage facility for documents - Birmingham
Documents, including wills of some of the most famous people in the UK are to be held, centrally, in a new purpose built storage facility and document retrieval service in Birmingham. The Probate Records Centre will be opened today by Michael Wills, Minister for the Courts at the Lord Chancellor''s Department and Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, President of the Family Division.
The contract, signed with Hays Information Management in July 1999, is worth £16.7million over 25 years, compared with an estimated £33million for a completely publicly funded centre.
The new centre replaces previous arrangements where Probate documents were stored in District Registries throughout England and Wales. The total number of records stored is 276,042 boxes and books, amounting to 35 kilometres worth of shelving space equivalent to the length of nearly 1,500 tennis courts.
Members of the public can go to any Registry in England and Wales and request to read a copy of a will for £5. Previously, a copy would have been sent in the post, taking several days, but the Probate Records Centre will scan the will and send it back to the Registry within one hour of the initial request. Plans are already in place to investigate the possibility of making the service accessible via the Internet.
Members of the public, courts and financial institutions often need to obtain copies of wills for a variety of reasons. Courts and institutions need to obtain copies for use in civil proceedings and to release assets to executors administering an estate, whilst relatives may want to get hold of certain wills to trace distant relatives and research family trees.
Records held at the centre date back to 1858 and the centre will ensure the preservation of these documents which include wills of historical significance, for example, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, Princess Diana, Florence Nightingale, Richard Burton and John Lennon.