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Unproven wills. A thought.


Loyal Member
Staff member
Not a general request but a discussion about wills that never made it to probate, makes you wonder how many or your ancestors left a will that was unproven. This may explain why some with property appeared to never leave a will, perhaps they did but it never went to probate, just a thought, or they simply came to a private agreement.


Loyal Member
north ayrshire
If you are named in someone's will as an executor, you may have to apply for probate. This is a legal document which gives you the authority to share out the estate of the person who has died according to the instructions in the will. You do not always need probate to be able to deal with the estate.


Well-known member
Randalstown, Co. Antrim, Ireland.
In the UK you only need probate if inheritance tax is payable or if there are assets which the executor can’t get released without it. I know from personal experience in the past 5 years that quite a lot of financial institutions will release funds to an executor without a probate grant. So it’s sometimes still possible to wind up an estate without probate (in which case the will doesn’t make it to the Probate Office). And that must have been much more common in the past when many of the deceased’s assets were moveable or cash.

Here’s a comment on Scottish wills but the rest of the UK may not have been too different:

Did everyone leave a testament?

No. It may sound surprising, but very few Scots left testaments. One of the reasons for this is that Scotland was, until comparatively recent times, a relatively poor country. Even in 1961 only about 43% of Scots dying in that year left testamentary evidence of any sort. You may find for instance that very wealthy people left no testaments while apparently quite humble individuals left wills with full lists of their possessions. People are often surprised to learn that quite valuable family heirlooms can apparently be passed down the centuries without any testamentary evidence. Previous generations were just as averse to paying legal fees as they are today!

Source: http://www.nas.gov.uk/guides/wills.asp

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