Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Follow-Up From Oct Workshop: Answer To WHY Take An Inventory?

Our recent EWGS October workshop featured a presentation on Probate Records by member Susan Beamer. I sent her a follow-up question asking WHY did every little thing have to be listed in an inventory? Wouldn’t and why not the widow just get everything?? Here is her answer: 

 In order to disperse the estate to the heirs, you have to know what's there. Part of that is anything owed the estate (anything the deceased lent--money or otherwise) or any outstanding bills the deceased owed themselves. They collect what is owed.  So the bills are paid first out of what is left of the estate. If things have to be sold to do that, then they are sold. This is especially true when people die without a will--intestate. What is left is then dispersed to the heirs. Most often heirs of those who die intestate aren't wealthy and there are enough of them (often enough) that everything sellable is sold, pooled and divided by the number of heirs, given as cash.

When people die with a will, the will sets out what heirs get. Wills are most common when there is real property and larger items. With a will, unless the deceased was in debt, you often don't know what is in the estate. They will say the wife can have use of what is left after debts are paid for the rest of her life, or the other--she can have what she brought to the marriage, meaning she basically gets nothing from his estate only what she brought in. Then after the wife dies, typically one of the kids gets the rest of the estate.

I've not seen where the widow's items are sold. If it is his estate, all those things of hers are really his. Then, if he was in debt when he died, they will sell all they can to pay the debt, even things the widow would need. Unless she can prove some items she brought with her to the marriage (dowry), but then again, depending on the time and laws, once they marry, all of her things are his. There probably are exceptions for the last couple hundred years, but not many.

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