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Historical Wills Archive Made Available Online

Wills Of Dickens, Turing And Orwell Are Among Documents


An online archive of more than 41 million historical wills has been made available to the public.

The database, which contains legal documents dating back to 1858, was the result of a project carried out between HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and information management company Iron Mountain.

Among the wills are those of famous British historical figures, including George Orwell, Alan Turing, Charles Dickens and Beatrix Potter.

As well as the wills, the public can view the grants of representation that gave named parties the right to deal with the deceased's estate. Copies of the documents can be ordered for a £10 fee.

Each of the documents were hand-scanned before being added to the digital archive, eliminating the need for people to visit the probate registry and conduct searches in person.

"It is a fantastic resource not only for family historians but also for anyone with an interest in social history or famous figures," said Courts Minister Shailesh Vara.

"I am delighted that HMCTS are leading the way in innovation and are helping deliver a more modern and efficient public service."

Expert Opinion
This new resource provides a fantastic insight into some famous names but, as well as being an important historical bank of information, it also puts a spotlight on the issue of preparing a will in general.

"We hope that this helps to highlight to the general public just how important it is to put provisions in place outlining how they would like their assets to be handled and managed in the event of their death.

"Irwin Mitchell’s own research last year showed that 60 per cent of people in the UK do not have a will in place and 47 per cent do not know how their assets would be divided if they passed away. This is an issue that people cannot afford to ignore and we would urge anyone who has not considered it to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity."
Gillian Coverley, Partner

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