Wills: English Common Law
WILLS: [This entry contains two subentries, on wills in English common law and in Islamic law. For discussion of wills in ancient Greek law, see Inheritance, subentry on Ancient Greek Law. For wills in Chinese law and United States law, see Succession.]
English Common: Law The history of wills and testaments reflects the jurisdictional conflicts that existed between the royal and ecclesiastical authorities over the control of the disposition of property upon death. The common law, church, .and chancery courts each gained control over different aspects of succession, leaving a complex body of law. The division between land and chattels has been characterized as "the most fundamental dividing line of the medieval common law" (Holdsworth, p. 412). This division, the characterization of property as either land or chattel, mostly settled by around 1500, determined the treatment of the property for both testate and intestate estates. In the absence of a will, land was subject to precise rules of inheritance that operated by law to pass the property to the heir or heirs. The disposition of chattels, in the absence of a testament, was subject to local custom and the individual discretion of the ecclesiastic administering the estate. Wherever land was concerned, ecclesiastical courts were prohibited from acting.
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Law | Legal History
M.C. Mirow, Wills: English Common Law, in 6 THE OXFORD INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LEGAL HISTORY, (Stanley N. Katz ed. 2009).