Wills can tell a lot about what people value. Looking through old wills can show how values might have changed over the years. The UK has recently aided that effort by making its archived wills available electronically dating back to 1858.
We often hear about the estates of recently deceased celebrities. Anyone can read the newspaper or search Google to find out the details of Michael Jackson’s estate. However, the estates of historic famous people are more difficult to find. It often requires going to the library and pouring over history books.
In the United Kingdom, however, some historic wills have recently been made available online for people to search through. The Independenthas the story in an article titled “New digital archive will allow public to view wills of historic names.”
The database includes many famous names, such as Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens. This is an interesting project and well worth a look for anyone who is interested in the lives and deaths of historic figures.
Closer to home, in the United States, something like this would need to be done on the state level.
One important takeaway for modern estate planning is that wills are public.
When filed with a probate court, wills become available for the public to access. While it is not as easy to access wills in the United States as it is in the United Kingdom, it can still be done.
Thus, if you want your estate to remain private, you should not rely on a will. Consult an experienced estate planning attorney to explore your options.
Reference: The Independent (December 27, 2014) “New digital archive will allow public to view wills of historic names“
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