When a person dies leaving a will, the will is sent to the appropriate court of probate to be proved. When a person dies intestate (without making a will) or had not appointed an executor, an administration bond is issued by the court to a named person or persons to administer the deceased's estate.
Before January 1858 church courts (or ecclesiastical courts) dealt with this process. The Principal Probate Registry was established on 12 January 1858 and keeps a copy of every will proved in England or Wales after 1858, as well as copies of letters of administration.
What records are held at the Hull History Centre?
The odd will can be found within our Family and Estates collections by searching for a person's name on our online catalogue. However, they are few and far between.
Where can I find a will proved before 1858?
Wills were proved by ecclesiastical courts prior to 1858, and which court was responsible for probate was determined by the place in which the deceased lived and the value of the estate. Estates worth over £5 (£10 in London) or with property in more than one diocese would be proved at the Prerogative Courts of Canterbury or York.
The Prerogative Court of York documents are kept at the Borthwick Institute at the University of York.
The Prerogative Court of Canterbury took precedence if property was held in both provinces. During the Commonwealth period, 1653-1660, a court of civil commission had sole jurisdiction over probate in England and Wales. Its records are filed with those of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury at The National Archives, and can be searched on Ancestry for free at the History Centre.
Scottish wills are at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh or in the Sheriff's Courts.
Welsh wills are held at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth .
Surviving Irish wills are held at either the National Archives of Ireland in Dublin or PRONI in Belfast.
Where can I find a will proved after 1858?
The National Probate Calendar for England and Wales 1858-1943 is available to search on microfiche at the History Centre. The National Probate Calendar for England and Wales for 1858-1966 and 1973-1995 and the Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills 1384-1858 is available to search on Ancestry for free at the History Centre.
For probate granted in England and Wales from 1858 up to the present, you can search the Probate service's online index to wills and administrations. You can also search for the will of a soldier who died while serving in the British armed forces between 1850 and 1986. The index is free to search but there is a charge if you wish to view the will.
There is also information about how to search for a will by post.