Duty to make a Will

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Writing a will was thought of as a spiritual duty as well as a worldly one; from 1552 into this century the rubric for the order of service for the Visitation of the Sick required the clergy to remind the dying of their duty to make a will.

To encourage will-making, the church made no direct charge for proving the wills of the very poor. There was just a cost of 6d for making a copy of the will and a further 6d if an administration bond was required. There is a note to the court registrar on the 1619 will of Richard Bond:

I pray dispatch this poor widow as soon as you can and with as much favour in the fees as may be [-] you see it is under £10.

Will of Richard Bond, 1619
Will of Richard Bond, 1619 (Ref: P1/B/160)
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However, the church courts were accused by their critics of exorbitant overcharging, so, although in theory only those with nothing to leave were excluded from the will-making culture, the quantity of surviving documents does vary considerably according to the wealth, age, social class and gender of the testator.