Statute of Wills

Statute of Wills

Long title The Act of Wills, Wards, and Primer Seisins, whereby a Man may devise Two Parts of his Land.
Citation 32 Hen. 8, c. 1
Territorial extent England and Wales
Royal assent 1540
Commencement 1540
Repealed 1 January 1838
Other legislation
Amended by
Repealed by Wills Act 1837, s.2
Relates to Statute of Uses
Status: Repealed

The Statute of Wills (32 Hen. 8, c. 1 - enacted in 1540) was an Act of the Parliament of England. It made it possible, for the first time in post-Conquest English history, for landholders to determine who would inherit their land upon their death by permitting devise by will. Prior to the enactment of this statute, land could be passed by descent only if and when the landholder had competent living relatives who survived him, and it was subject to the rules of primogeniture. When a landholder died without any living relatives, his land would escheat to the Crown. The statute was something of a political compromise between Henry VIII and English landowners, who were growing increasingly frustrated with primogeniture and royal control of land.

The Statute of Wills created a number of requirements for the form of a will, many of which, as of 2008, survive in common law jurisdictions. Specifically, most jurisdictions still require that a will must be in writing, signed by the testator (the person making the will) and witnessed by at least two other persons. The Uniform Probate Code in the United States carries forward the two witness requirement of the Statute of Wills, at Section 2-502.[1]

In England and Wales, the Statute of Wills was repealed and superseded by the Wills Act 1837.


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