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Wills and Inheritance & Letters of Administration (Admons), pre-1858 (Land & Property)

Nature of Source

Details of legacies left by the deceased and proved by one of the 300 or so ecclesiastical (church) courts or courts under 'peculiar' jurisdiction. The process of carrying out the terms of the will was the responsibility of the executor or executrix appointed by the deceased as detailed in the will. Before this could happen the will had to be proved (‘approved’) by persuading a court that it was valid and ‘final’ or ‘last’ in a process called probate. Letters of Administration or Admons were issued when a person died intestate (without leaving a will).

Originally a will consisted of two separate documents, namely the will and testament. These two documents were necessary under the feudal system as it was not possible to will (devise) property (reality) that had been acquired by inheritance and not by purchase. Common law stated that property (real estate) and land should pass automatically to the deceased heir; the eldest son (primogeniture). The only exceptions occurred in cases of gavelkind (all sons inherit equally) and ‘Borough English’ (youngest son is the heir). The testament dealt with movable personal property (personality) which could be left as a legacy to anyone with the proviso that one third passed to the widow and one third to the children.

Peculiars remain a remnant of the power structures of medieval England. A peculiar covered an area exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop in whose diocese it lay and therefore controlled probate matters. A peculiar could cover a single parish or a number of non-adjacent parishes stretching across county boundaries. A variety of peculiars existed with distinct jurisdiction as follows:

Ecclesiastical/Cathedral (Under the authority of a Dean or Dean and Chapter of a cathedral)
Manorial (Managed by the lord of the manor)
Liberties (Former abbeys and monasteries)
Parish/Town
University (Applied to Universities granted the right of self-government)
Royal Peculiars

The following are important Statutes and Acts affecting wills and inheritance:

Statute of Uses (1535)
The restrictions on devising property led to ways of circumventing the law by handing over real estate to trustees who could alter by deed the law of primogeniture to ensure other sons benefited from the will. This practice was made illegal by the parliamentary act passed in 1535 and known as the Statute of Uses. The act created an outcry and in 1540 an act was passed to rectify the situation.

Statute of Wills (1540)
The Statute of Wills restored the ability to devise property (up to two thirds of the land) amongst other sons rather than restricting the inheritance to the oldest son. The statute ruled that males over the age of 14 and females over 12 could inherit and make a will and barred lunatics and criminals from making a will. From the 1661 the practice applied to all land. The statute effectively ended the need to have two documents and both combined to be known as a will. These arrangements only applied to those holding land in fee simple (absolute ownership). This stipulated that fee simple land was freehold and passed to the common law heir on the death of the holder. Land held by copyhold became devisable in 1815 and land held in fee tail in 1925. The statute allowed only for spinsters or widows over the age of 21 to make a will. A wife could have had a life interest in the husband’s property and would not therefore be mentioned in the will, likewise a son, as common heir, would have an automatic right to a part of the property. After 1661 all freehold property could be freely devised.

Statute of Distributions (1670)
The statute of distributions ensured a fair distribution of property amongst family members and especially the spouse in the event of intestacy. The statute stipulated that the widow should receive one third with the remainder divided between the children. If there was no issue, the spouse then received a half with the remainder going to the next of kin.

Wills Act (1837)
The age ages for making a will were raised to 21 (‘full age’) for males and females but barred traitors, heretics, lunatics, slaves or prisoners from making a will. About a third of wills were nuncupative (oral wills) with women often making such wills. The laws passed regulating the making of a will generally applied to those serving in the armed forces. The one major area of legislation that soldiers were excluded from was the laws covering nuncupative wills. These wills were made orally by the testator and their nature often resulted in disputes so the Wills Act of 1837 made this method invalid. An earlier act the Statute of Frauds had severely restricted their use. The only exception being those serving the military who were on active service. Soldiers confined to barracks were subject to the laws relating to nuncupative wills.

Married Women’s Property Act (1882)
The Act allowed women to hold real and personal property either at the time of the wedding or after in her own right and for her separate use. The act conferred the right of a women to dispose of such holdings freely. Before the act only unmarried women and widows enjoyed the right to freely will their property, but only property held by copyhold tenure and not freehold land held in fee simple. Any subsequent marriage invalidated the previous will. Before the act the husband and wife were, in the eyes of the law, a single entity with the husband the completely dominant partner. Therefore any property or lands held by the wife at the time of the marriage automatically passed into ownership of the husband. Married women rarely made wills before the act and only with the husband’s consent, sometimes following a formal agreement or settlement at the time of the marriage. A father could leave money to his daughters for their sole and separate use and benefit. These terms protected his daughters from the common law that gave a future husband control his wife’s belongings. In effect it raise her status to that of a single female free from the coveture of her husband and provided his daughters with a separate income independent of the husband. In 1893 a married woman gained complete control of her property.

The following shows the hierarchical structure of the courts:

Probate Court
Archdeacon's Court (Held jurisdiction over the Archdeaconry which consisted of a number of Rural Deaneries which, in turn, consisted of several Parishes)
Bishop's Court, also known as Consistory or Commissary Court (Held jurisdiction over the Diocese which consisted of one or more Archdeaconries)

Archbishop's Courts
Prerogative Court of Canterbury (Held jurisdiction over the Province of Canterbury covering the south of England and Wales or for those that held property or lands in both Provinces or were resident in England or Wales but died abroad)
Prerogative Court of York (Held jurisdiction over the Province of York covering the north of England)

The location of the deceased's property determined where the will was proved. Most probate matters were dealt with by the Archdeacon's court. A person holding goods and cash to the value of £5 or more (£10 in London) in one or more diocese was known as 'bona notabilia'. In this instance the will would be proved in a higher court such as the Consistory Court or the Prerogative Court. The wealthier, some nonconformists and those who held land in two archdeaconries used the Prerogative Court of Canterbury or York (PCC and PCY). The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers displays pre-1832 county maps and most importantly, the ecclesiastical jurisdictions for each parish. The date of the probate clause written at the end of the will provides a clue to the testator's date of death.  

Only about one person in ten held sufficient property and other goods to necessitate probate, so do not assume that the deceased left a registered will. Wills entirely in the writing of the testator are known as 'holograph' wills. A spoken will usually made shortly before death was legally acceptable providing three witnesses were in attendance. These wills are known as 'nuncupative' and remain valid for those on active service. During the interregnum, the Civil Probate Court held probate jurisdiction over the whole country.

Check the probate act books which covered the day-to-day activity of the probate courts. The books often contain unregistered wills (wills not proved in court) and vital additional information not found in the will itself. An unregistered will might survive in its original form and can be consulted at The National Archives in PROB 10 or at the County Record Office. Some family members might not be mentioned in the will, which could indicate that they were already dead or had been dealt with by other means such as an earlier property settlement.

From 1529 to 1782 it was a legal obligation of the executor to compile a probate inventory of the deceased's personal or moveable goods, assets and chattels, not including real estate or land. The assessors compiled a detailed listing of the entire contents of the deceased’s dwelling with the estimated value of each item. The objective of the exercise was to ensure that any unpaid debts owing at death could be paid. The inventories form part of the probate records and have survived in great numbers. They are likely to be found attached to the will at county record offices. Inventories filed with wills proved at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury are housed at The Nations Archives and those filed between 1660 and 1782 are searchable online via TNA’s DiscoveryCatalogue.

Also search the Bank of England Will Extracts. These extracts, mainly from wills, were drawn up by bank officials from 1717 to keep track of those who held investments in government or public funds. The officials also compiled extracts to record changes of ownership in these investments by stockholders or 'fundholders' as a result of sales or transfers, death, bankruptcy or being declared a lunatic. Most of the wills extracted in the index were proved by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. The index to the extracts is available online at Findmypast.co.uk or at the Society of Genealogists member's area SoG Data Online for free, with a copy of the original entry available from the Society of Genealogists.

Letters of Administration or Admons were usually issued only if property was over £5 in value and enabled family members to dispose of the estate in the absence of a will. The administrator of the estate drew up a probate account which detailed the assets and the benefactors of the estate. Admons contain little of genealogical value, however they may name several family members and occasionally contain detailed information of considerable value. They will usually be found in the administration act book or the probate act book and can now be found in County Record Offices.

The probate act of 1857 severed the powers and jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical or consistory courts and the chancery court in probate matters. The act established a new civil court of probate with a principal probate registry sited in London and 40 district probate registries covering the rest of England and Wales starting from 11th January 1858.

Also see
Death/Estate Duty Records (Wills)
Land and Property Records including Title Deeds
Monumental Inscriptions
Palaeography/Handwriting
Parish Registers-Burials

Where Found

The National Archives (PROB 11, Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Will Registers. Digital copies of these wills can be searched and downloaded at TNA Online Collections)
The National Archives (PROB 10, Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Bundles of Original Wills. PROB 10/639 to PROB 10/642 are available to download free of charge as part of the Digital Microfilm project)
The Nations Archives
(Series PROB 3-5, Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Eighteenth Century Inventories; PROB 16, Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Court: Muniment Books, including inventories; PROB 32, Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Files of Exhibits pre 1722, including inventories; PROB 31, Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Exhibits, including inventories)
County Record Offices (Archdeacon's and Bishop's courts. ARCHON Directory: Find the details of a UK archive from a searchable list of over 2,500 archives The catalogue can be found on the TNA Discovery home page)
Borthwick Institute (The institute houses the York Diocesan Archive which includes original wills, will registers and probate act books from 1316 to 1858 including probate records from the Prerogative Court of York)
Society of Genealogists (Wills Collection including some Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Prerogative Court of York indexes; Bank of England Will Extracts; Death/Estate Duty Will Indexes; Copies of wills collected by F.A. Crisp)
British Record Society (Indexes to PCY and PCC wills).
LDS FamilySearch Centers (Including the Bank of England Will Extracts Index)
Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies (County maps, showing the parish boundaries, the probate jurisdiction, and the date of commencement of registers, also available to purchase from the web site)

Period Covered

1250 - 1858

Genealogical Value

Name, address (parish) and occupation of testator; Land and other possessions of testator; Names of legatees including family relationships; Names of executors and witnesses; Date of will and probate. Useful for house histories.

Further References

Arkell, Tom & Evans, Nesta & Goose, Nigel. When Death Do Us Part: Understanding and Interpreting the Probate Records of Early Modern England: Leopard's Head Press, 2000 Buy Now on Amazon
Camp, Anthony & Bouwens, B. G. Wills and their Whereabouts: Society of Genealogists, 1963 (Available to view online at Family History Books)  
Camp, Anthony. Wills and their Whereabouts. The Author, 1974  
Chapman, Colin. How Heavy, How Much and How Long?: Weights, Money and Other Measures Used by Our Ancestors: Lochin Publishing, 1995  
Cox, Jane. An Introduction to Wills Probate and Death Duty Records: Federation of Family History Societies, 1993  
Cox, Jane. Affection Defying the Power of Death: Wills, Probate and Death Duty Records. Federation of Family History Societies, 1998  
Durie, Bruce. Documents for Genealogy & Local History: The History Press, 2013  
Faraday, Michael. Calendar of Probate and Administration Acts, 1407-1550 in the Consistory Court of the Bishops of Hereford, with an Appendix of Abstracts of Registered-Copy Wills 1552-1581: Michael Faraday, 2009  
Gibson, Jeremy & Churchill, Else. Probate Jurisdictions: Where to Look for Wills: Federation of Family History Societies, 2002 (Preview available from Google Books)  
Gibson, Jeremy & Raymond, Stuart. Probate Jurisdictions: Where to look for Wills: The Family History Partnership, sixth ed. 2016)  
Grannum, Karen. Using Wills: PRO Pocket Guides to Family History: PRO Publications, 2001  
Grannum, Karen & Taylor, Nigel. Wills and Other Probate Records: A Practical Guide to Researching Your Ancestors' Last Documents: PRO Publications, 2004  
Grannum, Karen & Taylor, Nigel. Wills & Probate Records: A Guide For Family Historians: The National Archives, 2009  
Halliwell, James. A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs, and Ancient Customs, from the Fourteenth Century: London, 1874 (Available to view at Google Books and to download Volume A-I at the Internet Archive)  
Humphrey-Smith, Cecil. The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers: Phillimore, 2003  
Jacob, Giles. A New Law-Dictionary: Containing The Interpretation and Definition of Words and Terms Used in the Law: London, 1729 five editions (Some editions available to read online or download from Google Books and the Internet Archive)  
 
McLaughlin, Eve. Wills Before 1858: Varneys Press, 1995  
Medlycott, M.T. Somerset Wills Index: Printed and Manuscript Copies: Harry Galloway, 1993  
Milward, Rosemary (comp). A Glossary of Household Farming & Trade Terms from 17th-century Probate Inventories: Derbyshire Record Society, 1986  
Raymond, Stuart. Words from Wills and other Probate Records: Federation of Family History Societies, 2004  
Raymond, Stuart. The Wills of Our Ancestors: A Guide for Family & Local Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2012  
Tollerton, Linda. Wills and Will-Making in Anglo-Saxon England: York Medieval Press, 2011  Buy Now on Amazon
Webb, Clifford. Dates and Calendars for the Genealogist: Society of Genealogists, 2013  
Westcott, Brooke. Making Sense Of Latin Documents For Family And Local Historians: Family History Partnership, 2014  


TNA Research Guides:
Wills 1384-1858
Wills and Probate: Further Research

The EurekA Partnership: Various titles containing transcriptions of The Peculiar Court probate records covering Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Warwickshire and Worcestershire

Websites

www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/looking-for-person/willbefore1858.htm (TNA Guide: Looking for records of a will or administration before 1858)
www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/guide/wil.shtml (Some Notes on Medieval English Genealogy: Wills)
https://community.dur.ac.uk/a.r.millard/genealogy/probate.php (Recent Indexes to English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish Probate Records)
www.sog.org.uk/leaflets/probate.shtml (Probate Records guide from the Society of Genealogists)
www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=2630 (Pre-1858 Probate in England and Wales: Tips for Distance Research, by Sherry Irvine)
www.mlfhs.org.uk/Infobase/Begin-Wills.php (Family History For Beginners: Probate, by John Marsden)
www.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/dorsethistorycentre/collectionsguide (Dorset History Centre - Guide to Sources: Probate Records-Wills, Letters of Administration and Inventories)
www.swheritage.org.uk/da-ls-research-guides (Devon Heritage Centre: Information Leaflet: Wills and Probate Records)
http://metcalfwaslin.org/links/probtips.htm (Where to find wills and a glossary of probate terms)
https://community.dur.ac.uk/a.r.millard/genealogy/probate.php (Recent Indexes to English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish Probate Records)
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/london-metropolitan-archives/visitor-information/Pages/information-leaflets.aspx (London Metropolitan Archive Information Leaflet No.6: Wills for London, Middlesex and Surrey Before 1858)
www.madaboutgenealogy.com/category/take-it-further/probate (Mad About Genealogy Probate: Links to national and regional online probate resources)
http://maps.familysearch.org (Maps showing the administrative areas and units of England. For each place name the parish is shown and gives start date for parish registers and Bishop Transcripts. The name of the appropriate Probate Court, Diocese, Province, Poor Law Union and Hundred is shown. Contiguous parishes and parishes within a specified radius can be displayed. In addition map layers can be displayed showing boundaries for the Civil Registration District, the Parish, the County, the Diocese and other administrative areas)
http://blog.findmypast.co.uk/articles/pre-1858-probate-jurisdictions-where-to-look-for-wills (Pre-1858 Probate Jurisdictions: Where To Look For Wills. Each map, based on the pre-1974 counties, is accompanied by a detailed legend giving a breakdown of the jurisdictions for each county. The county maps are based upon those created by Jeremy Gibson for his book Probate Jurisdictions)
www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/England_Probate_Records#Pre-1858_Probate_Courts (FamilySearch Research Wiki: England Probate Records)
www.familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/England (FamilySearch Research Wiki: Historic counties of England showing county probate records including the facility to identify court jurisdictions by parish)
www.pricegen.com/resources/probateindexes.htm (Links to online collections of probate records, including Scotland and Ireland)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/wills.htm (TNA guide to Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills)
www.history.ac.uk/gh/probate.htm (Guide to probate records held at the Guildhall Library)
www.ancestrysolutions.com/Genea101%20Prob.html (Guide to probate records)
www.ancestrysolutions.com/Defsprobate.html (Dictionary of legal terms found in Probate and Estate Records)
www.kdfhs.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=43&Itemid=102 (Keighley and District Family History Society: Research Guide: Glossary of Terms - Wills)
www.findmypast.co.uk/articles/glossary-of-probate-terms (Findmypast: Glossary of Probate Terms)
www.thegazette.co.uk/wills-and-probate/content/75
(The Gazette: Wills and probate glossary of terms)
www.familyhistorymonthly.com/qanda-detail/7
(Family History Monthly: What Are Probate Inventories?)
www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/archives/starting-your-research/research-mini-guides (Gloucestershire Archives Research Guides: Wills and probate records; Probate Inventories)
www.buildinghistory.org/wills.shtml (Researching Historic Buildings in the British Isles: Using wills and probate inventories in building history)
http://books.familysearch.org (Family History Books: Abstracts of probate acts in the Prerogative court of Canterbury. Family History Books is a collection of searchable published genealogy and family history books brought to you by FamilySearch)
www.parishfinder.co.uk (Parish Finder: Locate a UK parish showing the county Chapman code and OS grid reference for each parish. It is also possible to list surrounding parishes and calculate distances between parishes)
https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Traditional_Nicknames_in_Old_Documents_-_A_Wiki_List (FamilySearch Research Wiki: Traditional Nicknames in Old Documents. Alphabetical list of historic personal nicknames and what they represent)
www.parishchest.com (Online store selling probate data from a variety of suppliers)
Weights and Measures
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency
(Currency converter: 'Old money to new' giving modern equivalents of historical amounts of money and 'Buying power' showing how much wool or labour could be bought with the historical equivalent of a modern amount of money)
http://moneysorter.co.uk/calculator_inflation.html (Calculator - UK Inflation. How much is British money really worth now compared to the past)
http://home.clara.net/brianp/money.html (English Weights & Measures and Money & Coins)
www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/questions/moneyold.htm (Old English Money)
www.nottingham.ac.uk/ManuscriptsandSpecialCollections/ResearchGuidance/WeightsandMeasures/Introduction.aspx (Introduction to Weights and Measures and Money in historical documents)
www.measuringworth.com (Various tools for measuring the historic values of money and the purchasing value of the pound since 1264)
http://projects.exeter.ac.uk/RDavies/arian/money.html (Money - Past, Present & Future. Information on Monetary History, Contemporary Developments, and Electronic Money, compiled by Roy Davies)
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare/5QDH9BDDMKU (Prices of a variety of goods as sold on August 21st 1625 in Southampton)
http://archive.is/MHkW (Relative Value of Sums of Money including earnings and wages)
www.guildofstmichael.org/money (Guild of St. Michael: Elizabethan Money including Coinage, Wages, Prices and Price Comparisons)
www.24carat.co.uk/frame.php?url=commoncoinnamesframe.html (Common Names of British Coin Denominations)

Online Databases

National and Regional Collections
TNA Online Collections (Prerogative Court of Canterbury wills: Wills from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury made between 1384 and 1858, extracted from series PROB 11. TNA Online Collections is produced by The National Archives and contains online access to indexes, transcriptions and digital images of some of the TNA's most important holdings. Searches are free but a fee is levied for each downloaded item. However downloads are free if used at TNA or the Society of Genealogists)
www.findmypast.co.uk (England & Wales Published Wills & Probate Indexes 1300-1858. The England & Wales published wills & probate indexes contain over 34,000 pages from more than 90 publications published by the British Records Society and other probate collections. The dataset includes: Prerogative Court of Canterbury Administrations, 1671-1700; Prerogative Court of Canterbury Administrations, 1620-1630; Prerogative Court of Canterbury probate indexes; Wills in the York Registry, 1389-1688)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Wills & Probate: Federation of Family History Societies and county record office material including: Prerogative Court of Canterbury Will Abstracts 1736-1794 Cheshire Wills and Probate; Cheshire Wills and Probate 1462-1911; Gloucestershire, Cheltenham Probate Abstracts 1660-1740; Sussex, Chichester Consistory Court Wills Index 1482-1800; Devon Wills Index, 1163-1999; Essex Wills Beneficiaries Index, 1505-1916; Gloucestershire Wills & Administrations, 1801-1858; Hertfordshire Probate Records Index 1415-1858; Kent Wills & Probate Indexes 1328-1890; West Kent Probate Index 1750-1858; Lancashire Wills Proved at Richmond 1457-1812; Leicestershire Wills and Probate Records, 1490-1941; Staffordshire, Lichfield Consistory Court wills 1650-1700; London Probate Index 1750-1858; London & Middlesex Will Abstracts 1700-1704; Surrey & South London Will Abstracts, 1470-1856; London, Court of Husting Will Abstracts 1258-1688; London, Archdeaconry Court Of London Wills Index, 1700-1807; Northamptonshire and Rutland Probate Index 1462-1857; Oxfordshire Wills Index 1516-1857; Somerset Medieval Will Abstracts 1385-1558; Staffordshire, Dioceses of Lichfield and Coventry Wills and Probate 1521-1860; Suffolk Testator and Beneficiary Indices 1847-1857; Surrey PCC Will Abstracts 1736-1794; Surrey & South London Will Abstracts 1470-1856; Surrey Peculiars Probate Index, 1660-1751; Wiltshire Wills and Probate Index, 1530-1881; Worcestershire Probate Index, 1660-1858; York Prerogative & Exchequer Courts Probate Index 1688-1858; York Peculiars Probate Index 1383-1883; York Medieval Probate Index 1267-1500)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Probate and Wills Records Collection: Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills Index 1750-1800 and the Bank of England Wills Extracts Index 1717-1845 produced in association with the Society of Genealogists. The Society has partnered with findmypast.co.uk to publish online record sets from its unique collection. For more information on the available records see here. Members of the Society will be able to view these records for free at SoG Data Online via their existing membership)
www.findmypast.co.uk (London Consistory Court Depositions Index, 1700-1713. Cases may involve matrimonial matters such as divorce and separation, breach of promise, arguments over estates and probate, defamation, and adultery)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Inheritance Disputes Index, 1574-1714. Find out if there really is a relative where there’s a will in our records of inheritance disputes between 1574 and 1714. Search more than 77,000 names of those involved in over 26,000 law suits at the English Court of Chancery)
www.ancestry.co.uk (Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858. Prerogative Court of Canterbury represent the largest collection of pre-1858 wills for England and Wales taken from series PROB 11 held at The National Archives)
www.ancestry.co.uk (Wills, probate & tax records: Datasets include: Calendar of wills proved in the Consistory Court of the Bishop of Bristol, 1572-1792; Calendars of wills of Devon and Cornwall; Dorset, Wills and Probate, 1565-1858; Gloucestershire Wills and Inventories, 1541-1858; Calendars of Huntingdonshire wills, 1479-1652; Ipswich Probate Inventories, 1583-1631; Kent, Tyler Index to Wills, 1460-1882; Lancashire & Cheshire Abstracts of Wills; Calendars of wills relating to the county of Leicester; Calendars of wills in the Consistory Court of Lichfield and Coventry, 1516 to 1652;Calendars of Lincoln wills; London, Wills and Probate, 1507-1858; Calendar of wills relating to the counties of Northampton and Rutland; Sudbury Archdeaconry Wills, 1439-1638; Wills of the Archdeaconry of Suffolk, 1620-1626; Calendar of wills in the court of the archdeacon of Taunton, 1537-1799; Calendar of wills in the Consistory Court of Worcester; Abstracts of Yorkshire wills in the time of the Commonwealth)
www.thegenealogist.co.uk (Wills, Probates and Testaments. Datasets include: PCC Wills Index and Images; Berkshire Wills and Administrations 1508-1652; Bristol Wills Index 1572-1792; Canterbury Wills 1383-1660; Chester Wills 1545- 1740; Chichester Consistory Calendar of Wills 1482-1800; Devonshire Wills 1559-1799; Dorset Wills 1500-1799; Gloucestershire Wills 1660-1800; Huntingdon Wills 1479-1652; Lancashire and Cheshire Wills 1301-1812; Leicestershire Wills Index 1495-1660; Lichfield Wills 1516-1652; London Wills 1258-1688; Northamptonshire and Rutland Calendar of Wills 1510-1652; Oxford Wills 1436-1814; Suffolk Calendar of Wills 1383-1604; Surrey Wills 1484-1490; Worcestershire Wills 1451-1652; York Wills Index 1514-1652)
www.sog.org.uk/search-records (SoG Data Online: Bank of England Will Extracts; British Record Association Wills; Index to Crisps Wills; Index to Document Collection Wills; Index to Special Collection Wills; Index to Prerogative Court of York Wills 1800-1842 Surnames A-G; Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills 1750-1800; County coverage includes Bristol; Devon, including the Fothergill Collection covering Devon, Cornwall and Somerset; Dorset; Gloucestershire; Middlesex including Archdeaconry Court of London; Sussex; Wiltshire; Worcestershire. Members of the Society of Genealogists are able to view these records for free via their existing membership. Non-members can carry out free surname searches but will need to join the society to view the full record details)
Familysearch.org (Historical Record Collections: Wales, Probate Abstracts, 1544-1858 with browsable images; England, Cheshire Probate Records, 1492-1940; browsable images of Kent Wills and Probate, 1440-1881; Somerset Wills Abstracts,1385-1556; Surrey Peculiars Probate Index, 1660-1794; Durham Probate Bonds, 1556-1858; Durham Probate Commissions, Monitions and Citations, 1650-1858; Durham, Dean and Chapter of Durham's Allerton and Allertonshire Original Wills; Inventories and Bonds, 1666-1845; Durham, Diocese of Durham Original Wills, 1650-1857)
British History Online (Various transcribed will and calendars)
http://books.familysearch.org (Family History Books: Searchable collection of more than 40,000 digitized genealogy and family history publications. The collection includes heraldic visitations, Phillimore parish register indexes, school registers, Phillimore calendars of wills, family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to books, gazetteers, medieval histories and pedigrees)
http://cat.llgc.org.uk/cgi-bin/gw/chameleon?skin=profeb&lng=en (National Library of Wales, index and summary of wills proved in the Welsh Ecclesiastical courts before 1858)
Familysearch.org (Historical Record Collections: Wales, Probate Abstracts, 1544-1858 with browsable images)
London Collections
www.londonlives.org (London Lives: PCC Abstracts of Wills, 1680-1819)
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/LGNL_Services/Leisure_and_culture/Records_and_archives/About_LMA/Volunteers.htm (Diocese of London Consistory Court Wills index, 1514-1858: Downloadable wills lists)
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/london-metropolitan-archives/about/Pages/volunteer-wills-project.aspx (London Metropolitan Archives: Volunteer projects Diocese of London Consistory Court Wills. The index contains 31,000 entries of wills and letters of administration  compiled from the London Diocesan Court registers)
www.ancestry.co.uk (Wills, probate & tax records: Datasets include: British Record Society transcriptions; London Wills and Probate, 1507-1858. The database contains wills held by the London Metropolitan Archives and the Guildhall Library Manuscripts. These are original wills only and do not include wills or administrations found in will registers or act books which are accessible on site at the London Metropolitan Archives)
www.findmypast.co.uk (London, Archdeaconry Court Of London Wills Index, 1700-1807. Index to 4,687 surviving wills from the Archdeaconry Court of London The original records can be obtained at the London Metropolitan Archives using the information found in this index)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Inheritance Disputes Index 1574-1714. Search more than 77,000 names of those involved in over 26,000 law suits at the English Court of Chancery. The index covers the wills, bequests, grants of administration, descent of property, identity claims and other testamentary disputes tried in the Chancery Court in London. The index also contains the reference of the original record held at The National Archives)
Local Collections
Gloucestershire Archives' Genealogical Database (All wills and inventories proved at Gloucester, 1541-1858)
www.batharchives.co.uk/what_we_hold/records_for_family_history/bath_ancestors_database.aspx (Bath Record Office: Bath Ancestors Database: Wills, 1603-1990)
www.calderdale.gov.uk/wtw/index.html (Images of Halifax wills)
www.wshc.eu/about-wshc/archives/209.html (Wiltshire Wills project, 1540-1858. Wills from the Salisbury Diocese covering Wiltshire and Berkshire and parts of Dorset and Uffculme in Devon)
www.bristol.gov.uk/ccm/content/Leisure-Culture/records-and-archives/bristol-wills-indices-1781-1858.en (Bristol Wills Indices 1781-1858)
www1.somerset.gov.uk/archives (Index to Somerset Wills, 1812-1857. Online access to abstracts of estate duty registers of wills. Most of the county's original probate records before 1858 were destroyed by German bombing in 1942 during the same raid in Exeter that destroyed the Devon wills. See here for more information. The index is also searchable at www.findmypast.co.uk covering the years 1385-1558. For the whereabouts of surviving probate material see Medlycott, M.T. Somerset Wills Index: Printed and Manuscript Copies: Harry Galloway, 1993)
www.staffsnameindexes.org.uk (Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry Wills Index, 1650-1730)
www.norfolksources.norfolk.gov.uk/DserveNS (Norfolk Sources: Probate - Wills from 1800-1857)
http://seax.essexcc.gov.uk (Essex Archives Online. Lists of all the original wills held by the Essex Record Office covering Essex and eastern Hertfordshire from the pre-1858 probate courts, dating between 1400 and 1858. Digitised images of 175,000 original wills are available to purchase online)
http://archives.cheshire.gov.uk/search-and-shop/search-and-shop.aspx (Cheshire Archives and Local Studies. Cheshire wills, 1492-1940. Wills of Cheshire residents proved in Chester)
www3.hants.gov.uk/archives/hals-collections/wills.htm
(Hampshire Archives and Local Studies. The online catalogue lists wills, admons and inventories of Hampshire and Isle of Wight people from 1398 to 1941. The wills were proved in the church courts of Winchester Diocese, up to 1858 and Winchester Probate Registry, 1858-1941)
www.hertsdirect.org/services/leisculture/heritage1/hals/indexes/indexes (Hertfordshire Names Online: Hertfordshire Will Index 1413-1857)
http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~spire/Yesterday/index.htm (Yesterdays Journey: transcriptions dealing primarily with Derbyshire) 
http://genuki.cs.ncl.ac.uk/DEV/DevonWillsProject (The Devon Wills Project: Index of Devon wills, administrations and inventories. The index shows where copies, transcripts, abstracts or extracts of such original testamentary documents may be found, and in many cases the whereabouts of the original documents themselves. Many Devon probate records were destroyed in Exeter by enemy action in 1942. The index is searchable for free at www.findmypast.co.uk covering the years 1312 to 1891)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Devon Wills Index 1163-1999. The Devon Wills Index 1163-1999 contains over 250,000 records proved by 30 courts. Many probate records for the county of Devon and the Diocese of Exeter were lost in 1942, when the Probate Registry was destroyed in the bombing during the Exeter Blitz of WWII)
https://archbishopsregisters.york.ac.uk (York's Archbishops Registers Revealed. Free access to over 20,000 images of registers with a searchable index of names, subjects, places and organisations dealing with wills and probate dating from early as 1267 and the appointment of parish and diocesan clergy)
www.wolverhamptonhistory.org.uk/resources/indexes (Transcribed Index of Wills at Wolverhampton Archives & Local Studies)
http://familyrecords.dur.ac.uk (Durham University Library: Family and Local History Records: Pre-1858 Durham and Northumberland Probate Records. Probate Records include wills and related documents from the areas under the probate jurisdiction of the Diocese and Cathedral of Durham, excluding Hexham and Hexhamshire and Thockrington. See website for full coverage)
www.genhound.co.uk (Genhound: Lancashire wills proved within the Archdeaconry of Richmond, Lancashire 1748-1812; Calendars of Lincoln Wills, 1601-1652; London Archdeaconry Wills, 1400-1415)
www.worldvitalrecords.com (Halifax Wills: Abstracts and Translations of the Wills Registered at York from the Parish of Halifax, Part 1, 1389-1514)
www.wirksworth.org.uk (Transcribed data covering 40 square miles around Wirksworth and Matlock, Derbyshire. Data sets include Parish Records 1600-1900, Derbyshire Wills 1525-1928, census returns, Petty sessions, Memorial Inscriptions, Board of Guardians, Hearth Tax and others)
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~malcolm/genuki/big/eng/OXF
(Index Of Probate Inventories, Oxfordshire 1550-1590)
http://shop.buckscc.gov.uk/wills-database (Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies: Archdeaconry of Buckingham court will indexes, 1483-1858)
www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~engsurry (Surrey Plus Wills Index)
http://archivedatabases.cheshire.gov.uk/RecordOfficeWillEPayments/search.aspx (Wills and probate records proved in the Archdeaconry of Chester, 1540-1857 and wills proved in the Chester Probate Court, 1858-1940)
www.hunimex.com/warwick/index.html (Pickard's Pink Pages for Warwickshire: Warwickshire probate indexes)
www.willtranscriptions.co.uk (Will Transcriptions Online: User submitted transcriptions of wills searchable by surname or county. The site also includes transcriptions of other miscellaneous documents)

Many indexes have been compiled at a local level.

CD Roms

Anguline Research (Various Will records and Haliwells Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words and How to Decipher and Study Old Documents)
Archive CD Books (County and country-wide coverage. A number of titles covering wills are available as digital downloads)
Archive CD Books (The Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Association, Record Series Volume 1, 1885. The series includes an index to the wills of Yorkshire for the first half of the 17th Century)
Stepping Stones (PCC wills)
West Country Books (Devon Wills; Abstracts Of Somerset Wills)
Berkshire Family History Society (Berkshire Probate Index, 1480-1857: The CD is an index to 39,000 probate records of the Archdeaconry of Berkshire)

Many transcripts and indexes produced at a local level.