What's happened to the #SaveOurWills petition?


30 May 2024
Why has the SaveOurWills petition started by Richard Holt closed early? Why has the SaveOurWills petition started by Richard Holt closed early?
Following the announcement of the forthcoming General Election in July, on 24 May all signatories of the ‘Do not allow original wills to be destroyed after 25 years’ petition (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/654081) were notified that the closing date for the petition had been brought forward to 00.01am on 30 May. This is due to the dissolving of Parliament, ‘which means all parliamentary business – including petitions – must stop’.

Will the #SaveOurWills petition carry on after the General Election?

The petition won’t be reopened after the election and the new Government ‘will have to decide whether to respond to petitions from before the election’. As this petition had met the eligibility requirement of more than 10,000 signatures (it had more than 15,000 signatories), it was responded to by the government on 1 March.

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Can the Wills petition be restarted?

Richard Holt, the genealogist who set up the petition to #SaveOurWills, following the Ministry of Justice’s consultation paper (published December 2023) proposing the possible destruction of original wills held in their care on a rolling basis, was contacted by the Petitions Committee, who wrote: ‘Your petition can’t be reopened after the election. You are very welcome to start your petition again when the site reopens after the election, but we can’t transfer signatures to your new petition.’

Will the Ministry of Justice proposal to destroy original historic wills go ahead?

Richard Holt explained to Family Tree that the situation is subject to change as the contract outsourcing the storage of probate records expires on 27 July 2024.

Mr Holt has made several Freedom of Information requests to both the MoJ and The National Archives and the correspondence may be studied online. To find the requests made by Mr Holt and the responses, please visit https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/ and enter 'Richard Holt' in the search bar.

Raised awareness of the Iron Mountain storage facility as an appointed Place of Deposit under the Public Records Act will likely impact the decisions surrounding the preservation rather than destruction of the historic records in the repository.

About Iron Mountain and the storage of historic wills

Iron Mountain was founded in 1951 by Herman Knaust, who used the depleted iron ore mine he owned as the site for the storage of corporate information, in a world feeling the threats of nuclear attack during the Cold War. On 27 July 1999 Hays Commercial Services Ltd signed the contract for the storage of wills for England and Wales from 1858 onwards, and Iron Mountain later took over Hays’ document storage business in 2003.

About Iron Mountain and the digitisation of wills

In December 2014, the calendars of 41 million wills held in the storage facility became available to search online for the first time. At the time, Phil Greenwood, Commercial Director at Iron Mountain, said: ‘The size of the archive is both humbling and impressive. Every will among the 41 million is a precious historical document that can provide remarkable insight into generations of lives lived and lost. The wills offer us a unique glimpse of individuals in their roles as father or mother, friend or colleague. The online availability of the wills is a welcome opportunity for anyone wishing to add detail to their family history.’

To find previous posts and background information regarding the Ministry of Justice's proposal to destroy historic original wills in their holdings, please see:

Family Tree blog 3 May 2024

Family Tree blog 24 February 2024

Family Tree blog 29 January 2024