Wills, Trusts, and Related Documents


Will of Ankh-renef

(An ancient Egyptian will dating from around 1900 BC; in English translation only)


Will of Æthelflæd
(in Anglo-Saxon and dating from around 1004-1014. Note that this is obviously only a record of an oral ceremony that had already taken place. This is confirmed by the prominent reference to several witnesses, whose function it was to remember what had happened. Incidentally, although the will appears genuine, some of the witnesses could not have been present; it is assumed their names were added somewhat later by scribes who may have been copying an illegible manuscript)

Will of John Washbourne, 1517

An Indenture establishing a charitable trust (an almshouse), 1679
(click here to see an image of the indenture or of the seal)
(additional documents relating to the Seymour trust)

Will Margaret Silcock (1764)  (image of page 1  page 2)

Will of Edward Grimes Abbot (English, 1861)   (image)
(a copy taken from a probate file, with attached probate declaration)


Will of Edmund Sherman
(an American colonial will from 1712)

Will and Codicil of Benjamin Franklin  (1789)

Will of James Crawford (North Carolina, 1816)
(Note the many religious references and also that the estate seems to consist largely of slaves

Will of Bernice Pauahi Bishop (Hawaii, 1883)
(This is the will of the last descendant of King Kamehameha of Hawai'i.  It established a trust to fund the Kamehameha schools for native Hawaiian children.  This trust owns large amounts of land in the islands.  The schools have been in the news recently because of controversial actions by some of the trustees and because of the limitation to native children)

Will of Elvis Presley (1977)
(excerpts; can you imagine the King singing this legalistic mumbo-jumbo?)

Will of David Packard (California, 1987)
(a remarkably plain language and straightforward will of one of the wealthiest men in the United States in his time. He probably had some complex trusts, however)


An Indian Will: Chaudhari Zaharia Mall
(1967; note that even though the will uses centuries-old English legalese, it is distinctly Indian in tone, avoiding the generally impersonal language of Anglo-American wills)  

A Dutch notarial will (Amsterdam 1872)
(This will is typical of the notarial style commonly used in Europe; note that the notary reads the will to the testator to make sure this really is how he wants to dispose of his possessions.  I have tried in the translation to convey some of the stilted and archaic language, as well as the bizarre word order--perhaps a literal translation from French or Latin--in the original document.)