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Availability of Will Records.


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Hello All.

I am just looking at the will record. I took the plunge and am looking at a Private Cresswell who was killed 11th March 1917.

I have a few question concerning the wills.

1.Was it a requirement that soldiers filled in a will form ?

2. A question regarding Wills pre war. Were they commenly filled in (it seems everyone has a will in this day and time was this the case pre 1914)

3. How can I find a will of a soldier who did not fill in an AB64. (I look at a soldier killed on the same day as my Great Grandfather and see his will was recovered from his body trying to draw conclusions as to why my great granddaddy will is not avalible)

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I can answer 1 and 2. Someone else will certainly be able to answer 2. This is based on the wills in the National Records of Scotland.

As far as I can tell soldiers were not compelled to make wills. However there do seem to have been occasions when they were either encouraged to or there was a general feeling that they should.

I have seen the occasional soldier's will which was not on the standard pay book form. I have seen one which is brief but in the standard form with two witnesses.

I suppose if you can't find the will it is worth looking to see if it was processed, which in England would be probate. I've forgotten most of what I knew about English wills, but I've an idea that you won't find any record if the value of the estate is small.

Scotland is different and I think I have found inventories compiled as a result of soldiers' wills.

R.

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Thank you for your reply. I was rather confused as to why I could not find a will for my soldier Henry Nichols (Mainly he had a wife and 3 small children and also quite a number of sisters) so it seemed crazy that he did not make a will. But i found the will of the person who was killed on the same day as Henry so maybe I am drawing conclusions from this.

I will have a look further. I think maybe I am looking at a will from a perspective of what it is like today.

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Thank you for your reply. I was rather confused as to why I could not find a will for my soldier Henry Nichols (Mainly he had a wife and 3 small children and also quite a number of sisters) so it seemed crazy that he did not make a will. But i found the will of the person who was killed on the same day as Henry so maybe I am drawing conclusions from this.

I will have a look further. I think maybe I am looking at a will from a perspective of what it is like today.

Unfortunately it could mean that he made a will and for some reason it was not found. Also I'm not sure that 100% of the soldiers' wills which were found and processed do still exist.

The other question is whether a man thought there was any point in making a will:

a. because he hadn't much to leave and/or

b. if he didn't make a will would his estate go to his wife and children anyway. (I know the answer to the last under Scots law, but I'm not sure about English.)

I don't for one minute say that it is a pattern, but the vast majority of unmarried men whose wills I have found left everything to their mothers.

R.

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I noticed this with Cresswell he left his possessions to his mother (he was killed the same day as Henry).

I think my other question was did wills hold the same amount of respect as they do today ? Maybe it is my perception.

Thank you so much

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I think my other question was did wills hold the same amount of respect as they do today ? Maybe it is my perception.

Thank you so much

I'm not sure what you mean by "respect". In theory, at least, they would be processed in the same way as any other will, even although they did not necessarily have the correct legal form. It is worth reading the first page which indicates how, when and why they were accepted.

I have come across one case where the dead soldier's father proceeded on the assumption that his son had died intestate. The soldier's will was not produced until some time later.

(Incidentally if you find the processing of a dead soldier's will or inventory, you may a quite accurate of where he died, e.g. "of wounds in ....hospital".)

R.

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If I recall from a while back when I was slightly involved in the project, the wills collection available online is not comprehensive. They are what was found in the basement of an ex MOD building.

IIRC they found only around 300k wills, and none for officers. So if you can't find one for your relative, it might only be it didn't survive.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Whilst talking about wills. I have purchased 2 soldier's wills and have found one was filled out a month before his death and the other 2 months before his death. One filled out in August 1918, the other September 1916. The one who died on 4th Nov 1916 went to France in September 1915 so plenty of opportunity to make a will before this date, although I do know he changed Battalion (Royal Fusiliers 12th to 11th) so this could explain his reason.

QUESTION :

How often did a soldier get a new pay book, and as such had to fill out the WILL again?

QUESTION :

I would be interested in hearing who else has seen the wills and what was the duration between filling out and sad demise.

Thanks

Martin Lepley


On Canvey Island's war memorial, about half of the men on it have wills finadable in England's probate.

Personally I do not have a personal will as I am happy that all my good transfer to my wife, and on her death to my Children

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It would be interesting to try and find my Great Granddads will Henry Nichols who was killed in 1917.

I think I meant the standing of wills. Were they held in high regards as they are today (Maybe I have been watching too many of them bbc1 programs)

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No sorry he was killed March 11th 1917 and was just Henry Nichols. But interesting news I found a small news paper article on him. I just found it odd that he did not leave a will with having 3 children.

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Personally I do not have a personal will as I am happy that all my good transfer to my wife, and on her death to my Children

If you live in England and Wales the rules are

the first £250K + half of what remains to wife then reaming half of what remains shared with children.

If your estate is above the Inheritance Tax level, quite possible if you own a house there could be unnecessary tax liabilities that mean your wife may have to sell your home to cover them. Leaving all to wife and vice versa would avoid this.

My wife (with my help) is currently trying to sort out her brothers estate he having been tragically killed back in May leaving a Wife (in the Philippines) and two sets of Children in the UK. The accident occurred in the Uk so subject to English law.

Please think about a simple will.

bill

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It would be interesting to try and find my Great Granddads will Henry Nichols who was killed in 1917.

I think I meant the standing of wills. Were they held in high regards as they are today (Maybe I have been watching too many of them bbc1 programs)

If you mean are the wishes in a will legally binding, then i'd have thought so for then as now, otherwise why bother? Although wills can of course be contested.

There's a few other threads on paybook wills and their recovery on the forum.

You can try he WFA and see if your g-grandads widow made a claim for a pension: http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-current-news/pension-records.html

Derek.

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QUESTION :

How often did a soldier get a new pay book, and as such had to fill out the WILL again?

Thanks

Martin Lepley

O

.

I Should think a soldier's pay book would be exchanged for a new one when no more entries could be entered into it. The old one would be retained and eventually end up with his docs at a Regiment or Corps Pay/Records office. Once a will is made it remains in force until a new one was completed, so no need to re do it on receiving new Paybook.

Also a soldier and also "sailors", marines and airmen serving with land forces overseas such as 63rd Royal Naval Div., RNAS (and RAF from April 1918) could make an oral will.

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This may have already been mentioned elsewhere, but it's just been announced that HM Courts and Tribunals Service is going to give online access to its database of 41million civil wills (dating back to 1858, these obviously including the GW period ) with the ability to order copies (at a cost); Wills, as well as giving an idea of the writer's personal wealth at death, can provide missing links - through bequests and legacies etc - to the names of friends and relatives not so easily traceable through other means. Details of the service given HERE in a Government press release

NigelS

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I have just tried the above site.

The searching could be improved. I looked up my grandfather, named Smith, died 1945, (which is all the information asked for).

I was presented with 90 pages of Smiths for that year, which have to be clicked through in alphabetical order.

I am very glad he was not called Zebedee!

Martin

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I found a relative's will who died in 1916 on the new website. Not sent off for it yet, costs £10.

The website is unstable at the moment, it keeps crashing on me, but that's probably because I'm looking for the surname Brown. I have given feedback (they're asking for it - give it!) requesting the ability to narrow down by search terms, using forenames.

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............. The website is unstable at the moment, it keeps crashing on me, but that's probably because I'm looking for the surname Brown. I have given feedback (they're asking for it - give it!) requesting the ability to narrow down by search terms, using forenames.

I haven't found the website unstable but I have given the exact same feedback as Pighills.

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But not for the three different search 'engines' the site employs - did you notice there were three options?

There's one for 1858-1996

One for 1996 to present day

And, finally, one for service men's wills

Only one (and I can't remember which it is) allows you to do an advanced search.

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Sorry, correction, two of the three options allow an advanced search. Soldier's wills and 1996 to present day. Wouldn't you guess that the one I want is the one that won't allow it!

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Interestingly, depending where the soldier lodged his will, you will get differing infirmation.

From the 'Solders' Wills' search section:

image-14.jpg

And from the '1858 - 1986 section:

image-15.jpg

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I ordered 2 soldiers wills on the 27th. and they arrived at midnight last night so less than 36 hours from the initial order.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I had a quick look at the will record I was sent for a soldier killed on the same day as Henry Nichols (although I cannot find a will for him) This will makes interesting reading !

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