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Re: wills and widows


My first book was on widowhood in early America (to 1750) and although I analyzed widows' wills, I had to know probate law. Alas, of the three colonies I researched, Pennsylvania was not among them. But I do know that most colonies had laws that prevented a husband from essentially disinheriting his wife and she would be granted her thirds. The issue of the previous 20 shilling bequest could complicate that. If you haven't already, you should look at Lisa Wilson's Life After Death: Widows in Pennsylvania, 1750-1850.

Re: wills and widows

It's been a while since I've read early probate laws, but I think the widow had the option of renouncing the will and taking her thirds, as if the husband had died intestate. She would have been entitled to one third of the personal estate outright and one third of a life interest in the real estate. This would be based on the estate after the debts were paid.

We have examples in our records of widows claiming their thirds in lieu of bequests, but I don't know the dates.