From George Orwell, who insisted all his manuscripts be preserved, to Charles Dickens who wanted no memorials put up to his life, history buffs can now explore the wills of some of the most influential figures of the past 150 years at the click of a mouse. The Government today announced it had digitized its archive of 41 million wills registered in England and Wales, dating back to 1858, allowing people to also research their own families.
The digital age strikes again, this time with technology that allows wills to be viewed online.
In the United Kingdom, some historic wills have recently been made available online for people to search through. The Independent has 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“