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DavidZahir
04-15-2011, 04:22 AM
Suppose a squire died intestate (i.e. lacking a will). His only known relatives are some distant American cousins and an Uncle whose whereabouts are unknown.

I presume that whoever manages the legal affairs of the estate would then make a search to find any close male relatives, especially to see if any word of the missing Uncle could be found. But until the Uncle were found or the search proved useless, who administers the funds? Who pays for the upkeep of the house, the wages of the servants, etc.?

More, what are the social rules a widow under these circumstances must follow? Keep in mind in 1836 Victoria is not yet on the throne, much less married to Prince Albert much less in mourning for his loss. The late Victorian strictures--remaining indoors, etc.--would not apply would they?

cameron_chapman
04-15-2011, 05:38 AM
Here's a link that might prove helpful: http://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=18566


Once widowed, women were entitled to a dower, which was usually equivalent to one third of the husband's estate. The dower is the portion of the deceased husband's estate that his widow inherited for life.

The 1830s presented a lot of changes to property laws in regards to women, so you may want to verify exactly when these laws changed. But the page linked above seems to have a lot of information about it.

BySharonNelson
04-15-2011, 05:44 AM
The only thing I do know is that if no relative is found then the property reverts back to the crown and is then normally sold off. As the link above states the widow is entitled to a dower but often times that is supposed to be administered by the heir and if none were present she would be left in limbo to fend for herself. If indeed the estate went back to the crown I believe she would have been forced to wait until the estate was sold to find out what her portion was. I also know that there are different types of property, some went to the next male heir but others could go to daughters if no sons were present. It depends on how the property was acquired, if it was granted by the crown then there were usually stipulations as to whom it could be left to.

Kitti
04-15-2011, 06:23 AM
It might also depend on what was in their original marriage contract (and whether or not she has male relatives who are willing to go to bat for her.)

DeleyanLee
04-15-2011, 06:31 AM
First thing I want to know is: is the estate entailed? If so, how is the entailment written?

If the estate is entailed (I think that's the right word), then it's on loan directly from the local lord or the crown and it can only be passed onto a relative according to the articles of entailment. (This is why Mr. Bennet's house and certain articles within couldn't be passed to any of his daughters but had to go to the cousin--it was entailed.) Not everything of value was entailed and not everything within an estate was entailed either.

For instance, if her husband's estate was entailed but his art collection was not, she could have rights to that art collection because it was his, personally, and not part of the entailment. The articles state very specifically what is covered and what isn't.

If she had a dowry (and hubby didn't squander it) or if she has an annuality from her family, then she still has a form of income available to her. Often men like squires would marry a woman with an annuality because that's guaranteed money every year and frees their money up for bigger gambles--assuming, of course, he has any money of his own.

Just thoughts for you to ponder.

DavidZahir
04-15-2011, 06:51 AM
Very interesting.

Allow me to be more specific. The widow has at least one daughter by her late husband. More, she has a brother (the local perpetual curate) who will certainly look after her interests.

So, if I understand this properly--upon the squire's death, his widow receives a dower worth one-third of the value of the estate which is hers. If the Uncle is not found soon and/or does not claim the inheritance, then everything goes to the squire's daughter or daughters. Correct?

But who makes decisions for the estate until the status of the Uncle is determined? And how long should that take?

Priene
04-15-2011, 08:55 AM
More, what are the social rules a widow under these circumstances must follow? Keep in mind in 1836 Victoria is not yet on the throne, much less married to Prince Albert much less in mourning for his loss. The late Victorian strictures--remaining indoors, etc.--would not apply would they?

I can't help you with the intestate rules, but three of my ancestors were widowed around this time. One quickly remarried - within about three years. The remaining two did not remarry. One appears in the next census as the housekeeper of the employer of two of her sons. The final one appears as the housekeeper of a widower, and by the next census she is head of his children's household, implying, I guess, that she became his unmarried sexual partner. But they would have been much poorer than your characters.

BySharonNelson
04-15-2011, 08:31 PM
From the limited research I have done on the matter it would all depend on how the estate was entailed. If indeed it could go to a female then it would go to the wife and then to the daughters. If it needs to go to a male relative then in most cases the wife continued to run the estate until the male relative stepped in. If the male relative never claimed it then it could be held for a number of years until they discover what has happened to the heir. I do not know the time limits or even if there are any...

DavidZahir
04-15-2011, 08:44 PM
Not all property was entailed, though. Mind you, that does give me a wonderful way of designing the situation as I see fit--by writing out an entailment that suits my purposes. As long as it isn't too outre, that should work...

Let us presume the entailment of the real property is supposed to go to the male heir--in this case the missing uncle--but there's a time limit. If he or his male heirs don't claim the estate within, say, five years the estate goes to the husband of the nearest female relative, starting with the squire's eldest daughter. She's not yet of age, so the estate remains in trust until she marries. If she dies without marrying, then it goes to the husband of her sister and so on.

Does that make sense? I'm wondering who would be managing the estate's finances until then?

pdr
04-16-2011, 03:59 AM
the family solictor would manage the legal limbo.

Buffysquirrel
04-16-2011, 06:02 PM
Don't forget that some property or money may have been settled on the widow when she married. Marriage settlements were common in this period among those who had anything to settle.

DavidZahir
04-16-2011, 07:25 PM
Thanks so much! That simplifies things a little bit.

pdr
04-17-2011, 07:52 AM
she would be expected to wear black and not gad about for a year. That had been the practise for a long time.

Any children would wear black, and the servants would wear arm bands. The house would indicate a recent death with a black crepe wrapped door knocker and wreath or ribbons.

AmericaMadeMe
04-17-2011, 10:04 AM
Very interesting.

Allow me to be more specific. The widow has at least one daughter by her late husband. More, she has a brother (the local perpetual curate) who will certainly look after her interests.

So, if I understand this properly--upon the squire's death, his widow receives a dower worth one-third of the value of the estate which is hers. If the Uncle is not found soon and/or does not claim the inheritance, then everything goes to the squire's daughter or daughters. Correct?

But who makes decisions for the estate until the status of the Uncle is determined? And how long should that take?

Actually, the process isn't that much different today. The widow is automatically entitled to a third and there is a probate process to insure that the estate is properly distributed. Just keep in mind that there was, and is, at least a 9 month delay to ensure that the widow isn't carrying a potential heir. Food for thought.

DavidZahir
04-17-2011, 10:16 AM
Admittedly, at first I was a tad upset because of what I was learning and what it would do to my projected timeline. But I've changed my mind, not least because these kinds of details (at least IMHO) nearly always lead to more genuine "feel" of events. Thus methinks the husband in question died earlier than originally planned. His widow has had time to adjust. She's starting to make some decisions (including hosting a dinner party that just barely manages to be non-scandalous, not least because they are frankly way out in the boondocks). Also, this allows for more progress to be made re: the search for the uncle.

black13
04-29-2011, 11:44 PM
Entailed property could also not pass to non-British owners, usually. For foreign owners there was frequently an enquiry.
The dower money usually came out of the dowry the woman originally brought to the marriage, so as not to be a burden on the estate. She would bring money or investments, which, in the marriage settlement, were put aside for her use in her widowhood and to provide any daughters with dowries. Her dower money generally went back to the estate on her death.
It's very difficult to put a generalism to this. My best advice is to find a real life example and copy it. Make it as close to your fictional situation as you can. Then not only are you reasonably sure of getting it right, you also have something to show critics.