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  1. #1
    Valued member of Brit-Gen barbara lee's Avatar
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    Default Women left legacies "for their sole use"

    Occasionally I come across wills where money or real estate was left to women "and not subject or liable to the debts or engagements of any husband she may have." That was from a spinster aunt to a niece in Lancashire in 1850. The niece did marry soon afterwards, so the testator expected it.
    Even as early as 1699 in Glamorgan a man left his daughter ten pounds "and in no way att the disposal of her p[re]sent husband"
    Given that the normal thing was for women's property to be immediately at the disposal of their husbands, how did these provisions "stick"? Was it simply at the say-so of the will?
    And why didn't all testators protect their wives/widows and daughters this way instead of leaving them open to the attentions of predatory fortune hunters?
    If it was legal and possible to give women control of their own money, why didn't everyone do it? Or were women usually thought to be incapable? Or was there some financial limit?

    Barbara

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    Knowledgeable and helpful stepives's Avatar
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    Usually the inheritance was held in trust, by a legal representative. The lady would therefore take money from her trust for any purchases, but receipts should be kept.
    Upon her own demise, a Will usually states that any goods purchased was from her own income, and not subject to be included with any household items that she may have inherited from her deceased husband. Such items, would be passed on to her daughters, or whoever she names in her will. The trust fund could be passed on to whoever.

    Also, sometimes the deceased husband, would stipulate that any rents from certain property that he owned, would be paid into her trust fund, even though one of her male siblings owns such property.

    Whatever terms in a Will, are at the discretion of the deceased.
    Too many bones, too much sorrow, but until I am dead, there's always tomorrow.

  3. #3

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    I have a (Scottish) father’s will that specified that the daughter’s husband should have no access or benefits from her inherited money, and that should she die when the children were young, the money should go to them but be administered by specified guardians... Actually the executors..

    I don’t think that Dad liked Hubby...

  4. #4
    Brick wall demolition expert!
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    Quote Originally Posted by barbara lee View Post
    If it was legal and possible to give women control of their own money, why didn't everyone do it? Or were women usually thought to be incapable? Or was there some financial limit?
    I can't be certain about the legalities, because I have one instance where an unmarried sister was taking advice as how to leave or get money to her married sister without the husband being able to have anything to do with it. Previously the unmarried sister had entered into a number of financial transaction with her brother in law, and I can only conclude that she had decided enough was enough. This was in the mid-late 1700s. I don't know whether she succeeded.

    However, that said I suspect that people seeking to leave money to women without any man being involved fell into two camps:

    Those like the unmarried sister above who had nothing but contempt for the man, and those who were perhaps enlightened and didn't automatically down play a woman's abilities.

    As to whether or not the provisions worked, my guess is that the character of the beneficiary would have come into play. One who was meek, would probably have simply handed over any legacy, whereas a more feisty character might have either sought to conceal the legacy, or simply tried to resist handing it over.

    I have a codicil to another will from 1770 which revokes a previous legacy of 300 to a woman, and replaces it with one for 200 on the basis that her husband had previously borrowed money and failed despite promising to do so to repay it. The codicil also included a provision writing off the husband debt. So this might be a recognition that best efforts would not a prevent a husband getting his hands on a legacy left to his wife.

  5. #5
    Valued member of Brit-Gen barbara lee's Avatar
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    Thanks for your views. I suppose some fathers thought that if a daughter had the prospect of a good legacy, they would get a better husband! And it did tend to be spinster aunts who understood that women could manage their affairs independently. As you say, Lesley, it does sound like some fathers really didn't like their sons-in-law !

  6. #6
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    I recently transcribed a very helpful Will of a widow who named daughters, their husbands, sons (both dead and alive still) and many grandchildren. All the living relatives were left bequests and the married daughters bequests were all attached to lengthy instructions that they were for the daughter only and that neither present nor any future husbands should have any control of the money. The daughters were also required to sign receipts for their bequests whether they were regular payments from the Trust she set up or capital sums. I suspect that there was a strong suspicion on the part of the widow that at least one son-in-law would try to claim the money and pay off debts but I also think that it may have been fairly normal wording. It certainly came up again in another Will I looked at again by a different person, albeit from the same family.
    "People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors. Edmund Burke

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