BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

18 September 2014
Accessibility help
Family History

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

Basic Research Tools

By Dr Nick Barratt
Working with wills

The following are crucial hints on working with wills:

Remember to use probate copies. Handwriting on original wills may be awkward to decipher, so it may be easier to check the registered copies in the probate courts, where more legible (usually) copies will have been created.

Be flexible about date of death. Wills are not always found listed in the same year that a person died, as the actual grant of probate can take some time. It is always worth checking lists from a year or two after a known date of death, especially for disputed wills, which can take even longer.

Remember exceptions. You should be able to obtain the names of family members who received bequests in any will, along with their relationship to the person who wrote it. However, important members are sometimes excluded - as may be the case with an heir at law, who would naturally receive the estate without the need for a bequest. Hence the first born or eldest surviving male may actually be omitted from the will.

Avoid assumptions. Never assume you are receiving all the facts - corroborate your findings against other sources.

Published: 2004-09-13

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy