Purpose of a Will

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The preamble to an Act of Parliament of 1529 (21 Hen. VIII, c.4) also detailed the purpose of will-making, explaining that testators should pay their debts, provide for their wives, arrange for the care of their children and make charitable bequests for the good of their souls.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, wills were increasingly used to provide for each member of the family left behind. George Beverstock senior of Bradford on Avon demonstrated that principle in his will of 1689, leaving two looms to his son-in-law thereby giving him a livelihood, and distributing his cows amongst his sons and daughters.

It was also common to appoint guardians for children in a will.

A mother who clearly had serious misgivings about what would become of her grown-up sons after her death was Margery Williams of Baydon. She added this Codicil to her will in 1797:

Whereas it is the Misfortune of my sons Benjamin and Joseph to be very indiscreet and imprudent and as they have expended their Fortunes and I am extremely apprehensive any Other Property would be in like Manner Wasted and Yet unwilling that they should be left entirely Destitute I hereby declare that it is my Will and Mind that my son Francis Williams to whom I have given all my Estate Property and Effects shall …. Execute One Bond or obligation in the Penal Sum of £200 …. Conditioned for the Payment of two shillings each per Week to them my said sons Benjamin and Joseph for and during the Term of their respective natural lives.
(Ref: P5/1799/27)