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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Controlling from the grave (some light reading)

We've all seen Wills in which the testator tries with varying degrees of success to control the behaviour of those left behind by using his/her Will. I've found several lately through my own research, all from the 1800s. For those of you who like oddball Will bequests and requests as much as I do... enjoy!

Nicholas Ash of Newfoundland, 1842, left the sum of 20 pounds a year for the support of his widow "as long as she shall remain in a state of widowhood and acting discreetly...but if she acts otherwise, the sum of one shilling."

William Andrews in 1844 spent pages detailing the gifts to his sons, but finished off his Will by saying that if "either or both of my sons should so far forget their duty as man and Christians as to give way to execessive drink" then they would forfeit the inheritance.

John Antle of Dorset, England, 1841, leaves money to someone he refers to as "my son or reputed son". 

Problematic sons were also an issue for John Alcock in 1898, as in his Will he said that since his two sons "left me without my consent", he was cutting them off with only a shilling each.

John Archer made a religious statement in 1868 by saying that if any of his children should "abjure the Protestant religion or become Roman Catholics" then they would forfeit their inheritance.

Richard Allen, 1894, left money for his son to maintain Richard's widow but said that if his son "disrespected her" she could have all the money herself.

My favourite by far of my latest batch is the Will of Patrick Stafford of Wexford, Ireland, who in his 1838 Will directed his "confidential friends"  to "punish any or either of my children as they would their own if they should become wayward or refractory".


  1. Those words are so subjective: wayward/refractory/disrespect/duty as men or Christians/acting discreet! Who's judging this stuff when the testator's gone? Hmm. Fascinating.

  2. Exactly! This kind of thing just isn't done anymore, because we've discovered over the years that most of this stuff is completely unenforceable. But it says a lot about the community these people lived in, that they believed their own standards and beliefs to be common among all, and easily understood.



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