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Wills & Estates

Wills provide a means of identifying at least an approximate date of death of our ancestors and often name the surviving family members.

The Process

Wills go through these stages

  1. Making: A person writes out, or has another do it, how he or she wants property disposed of and who is to serve as "Executor" to carry out the terms. He or she signs the document or makes a mark and the will is also signed by witnesses. Because a signature or mark is necessary, the person must have been alive at least part of the day the will was made and dated.
     
  2. Proving: A court holds a hearing to determine that the person is deceased & that the document is their valid "last will & testament". The witnesses and the named executor may testify as to the facts. When a will is "proved" in court, its maker must have been deceased.
     
  3. Administration: The executor(s) carry out the terms of the will. Real and personal property is distributed to the heirs. Estate sales may be held for paying of debts or raising cash to distribute to heirs. Reports are made to the court.

Estate records (inventories, property sales, accounting to the court) will also be generated during the course of administering the decedent's estate.

Date of Death

A will does not give an exact date of death. However, it — and its associated court records — does provide a range of dates. The person who made it

Death would have occurred sometime between those two dates.

Executors

Executors named in wills are usually trusted family members or close friends. We should not neglect the implications of a decedent's naming of executors.

Intestate

This term refers to a person dying without a valid will. In cases where there is property or debt to be disposed of or minor children to be cared for, a court will oversee settling of the decedent's affairs. This will also generate estate records, often similar to those of a will.

A court may appoint one or more "Administrators" for the day-to-day tidying up of the decedent's affairs. Administrators are persons the court trusts to be fair and responsible. (They may be required to post a bond.) The administrators act in the same way as executors, except they have no will to guide their actions.

Marble-Taylor Collection

Martha Marble & Gloria Taylor have posted extracts of many Taylor wills & estates from 1747 to 1811 here. The page also contains a list (names & years) of estate files not extracted from 1860 to 1910.

Also, see this page which puts the information in a table format, in time sequence.


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Revised 30 Dec 2008

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