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The Will must be proved in the Ecclesiastical Court.
It appears to have been a subject of much controversy, whether the probate of Wills was originally a matter of exclusive ecclesiastical jurisdiction (a). But whatever may have The Spiritual been the case in earlier times, it is certain that, at this day, Court is the
only Court in the Ecclesiastical Court is the only court, in which, except which the
validity of a by special prescription, the validity of Wills of personalty, or Will of perof any testamentary paper whatever relating to personalty, established or can be established or disputed (b). Equity indeed considers disputed. an executor as trustee for the legatees in respect to their legacies, and, in certain cases, as trustee for the next of kin of the undisposed surplus: and as all trusts are the peculiar objects of equitable cognizance, courts of Equity will compel the executor to perform these his testamentary trusts with
(a) Bac. Abr. Exors. (E.) 1. Dyke v. Walford, 5 Moo. P. C. 431, S. C. 6 Notes of Cas. 309.
(6) Fonblanq. Treat. on Eq. Pt. 2, c. 1, s. 1, note (a). Bac. Abr. Exors. (E.) 1. Post, Pt. 1. Bk. v.
Ch. 1. Gascoyne v. Chandler, 2
Courts of equity are courts of construction of Wills of per sonalty.
Prescriptive jurisdiction of some lords of manors to grant probate.
propriety. Hence, although in those courts, as well as in courts of law, the seal of the Ecclesiastical Court is conclusive evidence of the factum of a Will of personal property (c), an equitable jurisdiction has arisen of construing the Will, in order to enforce a proper performance of the trusts of the executor. The courts of equity are accordingly sometimes called Courts of Construction, in contradistinction to the Spiritual, which, although they also are courts of construction, are the only courts of Probate.
Although it is regularly true, as above stated, that at present the Spiritual Court is the only one that hath jurisdiction in the probate of Wills; yet from this general rule must be excepted all Courts Baron that have had probate of Wills time out of mind, and have always continued that usage (d). Such a prescription exists in the Manor of Mansfield; and also in the Manors of Cowley and Caversham, in Oxfordshire, the courts of which the author of Wentworth's Office of an Executor, (supposed to be Mr. Justice Doddridge,) says that he himself kept (e). This franchise had probably been granted to the lords of such manors, before the crown invested the prelates generally with this branch of the prerogative (f).
The consequence of this exclusive ecclesiastical jurisdiction is, that an executor cannot assert or rely on his right in any other court, without showing that he has previously established it in the Spiritual Court (g): the usual proof of
(c) See post, Pt. 1. Bk. vi. Ch. I. prescription, and therefore a person
(d) Bac. Abr. tit. Executors, (E.) who has administration granted to 6 Swinb. Pt. 6, s. 11, pl. 3.
him by a lord of a manor, declares (e) P. 100, 14th edit. Godolph. upon it as committed “per A. B. Pt. 1, c. 20, s. 1. By custom, also, dominum Manerii, cui administrathe probate of Wills of burgesses tionis commissio de jure pertinet belongs to the mayors of some bo- per consuetudinem infra maner. roughs, in respect of lands devis- præd. a tempore cujus contrarii able within the same; yet as to
memoria hominum existit personal property, the Will must usitat. et approbat :” Thomp. be proved before the Ordinary: Ent. 342. Denham v. Stevenson, Bac, Abr. Executors, (E.) 7.
1 Salk. 41. Bac. Abr. tit. Execu() See 2 Black. Com. 494. This tors, (E) 6. jurisdiction can only be claimed by (9) Hensloe's case, 9 Co. 38, a.
which is, the production of a copy of the Will by which he is The executor appointed, certified under the seal of the Ordinary. This is
or rely on his usually called the probate, or the letters testamentary (h). In title in the other words, nothing but the probate, (or letters of adminis. Courts, with
out the productration with the Will annexed, when no executor is therein tion of the proappointed, or the appointment of executor fails, or other bate of the
Ordinary : proof tantamount thereto of the admission of the Will in the Spiritual Court, is legal evidence of the Will in any question respecting personalty (i). The Will of a deceased Sovereign of the realm is no exception to this rule, notwithstanding (as it has already appeared (1),) no probate of such a Will can be granted by the Spiritual Court (I). The probate is, however, merely operative as the authen- but he derives
his title from ticated evidence, and not at all as the foundation, of the the Will and executor's title: for he derives all his interest from the Will
not the pro
bate : itself, and the property of the deceased vests in him from the moment of the testator's death (m). Hence the probate, relation of
the probate to when produced, is said to have relation to the time of the the testator's testator's death (n).
Wentw. Off. Ex. 83, 14th edition.
(h) The “ letters testamentary” incorporate by necessary and express reference the Will annexed : Therefore, when oyer was craved of the letters testamentary, the plaintiff was bound to give a copy as well of the Will as of the certificate of the Ordinary: Daly v. Mahon, 4 Bingh. N. C. 235.
(1) Rex v. Netherseal, 4 T. R. 260. If a Will be made in a foreign country, and proved there, disposing of goods in England, the executor cannot have action on such probate, but ought to prove
the Will here: Lee v. Moore, Palm.
(k) Ante, p. 13.
(1) Ryves v. Duke of Wellington, 9 Beav. 579.
(m) Hensloe's case, 9 Co. 38, a. Graysbrook v. Fox, Plowd. 281. Comber's case, 1 P. Wms. 767. Smith v. Milles, 1 T. R. 480. Woolley v. Clark, 5 B. & A. 744. S. C. 1 Dowl. & Ryl. 409. Treat. on Eq. Bk. 4, Pt. 2, c. 1, s. 2.
(n) Graysbrook v. Fox, Plowd. 281. Wentw. Off. Ex. 115, 14th edition. Whitehead v. Taylor, 10 A. & E. 210.
What the Executor may do before Probate.
Upon the principles stated at the conclusion of the preceding Section, it has been held that the executor, before he proves the Will in the Spiritual Court, may do almost all the acts which are incident to his office, except only some of those which relate to suits (o). Thus he may seize and take into his hands any of the testator's effects (p), and he may enter peaceably into the house of the heir, for that purpose, and to take specialties and other securities for the debts due to the deceased (q). He may pay or take releases of debts owing from the estate (r), and he may receive or release debts which are owing to it(s); and distrain for rent due to the testator (t). And if before probate the day occur for payment upon bond made by or to the testator, payment must be made to or by the executor, though the Will be not proved, upon like penalty as if it were (u). So he
may sell, give away, or otherwise dispose at his discretion of the goods and chattels of the testator, before probate (x); he may assent
(o) Godolph. Pt. 2, c. 20, s. 1. Wentw. Off. Ex. 81, 14th edition. Treat. on Eq. B. 4, Pt. 2, c. 1, s. 2. Wankford v. Wankford, 1 Salk. 301. Humphreys v. Ingledon, 1 P. Wms, 753.
(p) Godolph. Pt. 2, c. 20, s. 1. Wentw. Off. Ex. 81, 14th edition.
(9) Godolph. Pt. 2, c. 20, s. 1. Wentw. Off. Ex. 81, 14th edition.
(r) Godolph. Pt. 2, c. 20, s. 3. Wentw. Off. Ex. 81, 14th edition.
(8) Co. Litt. 292, 6. Graysbrook v. Fox, Plowd. 281. Middleton's case, 5 Co. 28, a. Godolph. Pt. 2, C. 20, s. 1. Wentw. Off. Ex. 81, 14th edition. Wankford v. Wank
ford, 1 Salk. 306, 307. Wills v. Rich, 2 Atk. 285.
(t) Whitehead v. Taylor, 10 A. & E. 210.
(u) Godolph. Pt. 2, c. 2, s. 3. Wentw. Off. Ex. 18, 14th edition. The penalty is now saved by bringing the principal and interest and costs into court, under stat. 4 Ann. c. 16, s. 13.
(2) Godolph. Pt. 2, c. 20, s. 3. Wentw. Off. Ex. 82, 14th edition. He may
release or assign any part of the personal estate before probate : By Lord Macclesfield, 1 P. Wms. 768, Comber's case.
to or pay legacies (y); he may enter on the testator's terms for years (z), and he may gain a settlement by residing in the parish where the land lies (a). And although he should die, after any of these acts done, These acts
stand good, without proving the Will, yet do these acts so done stand firm though he'die and good (b). Where a termor devised his term to another without prov
ing the Will : whom he made his executor and died; and the devisee entered and died without any probate ; it was held that the term was legally vested in the executor by his entry, and an execution of the devise, without any probate (c). So if an executor assents to a legacy, and dies before probate, yet the assent is good enough (d). So all payments made to him are good, and shall not be defeated, though he dies and never proves the Will (e). In a word, the executor's not proving the Will, does, upon his death, determine the executorship, but not avoid it (f).
It must, however, be carefully observed in this place, that, If acts done by although an executor may, before probate, by assignment of before probate, a term for years, or other chattel of a testator, or by an assent are relied on
for title, a subto a specific legacy, give a valid title to the assignee or legatee; sequent pro
bate must be yet, if it be necessary to support that title by deducing it shown. from the assignment or assent, it also becomes requisite to show the right to make the assignment or give the assent; which can only be effected by producing the probate, or other evidence of the admission of the Will in the Spiritual
(y) Godolph. Pt. 2, c. 20, s. 1. Wentw. Off. Ex. 82, 14th edition.
(=) Rex v. Stone, 6 T. R. 298. Dyer, 367, a. And the executor of the grantee of the next avoidance of a church may grant the advowson before probate: Smithley v. Chomeley, Dyer, 135, a,
(a) 6 T. R. 295.
(6) Wentw. Off. Ex. 82, 14th edit. Brazier v. Hudson, 8 Sim. 67.
(c) Dyer, 367, a. Rex v. Stone, 6 T. R. 298. Fenton v. Clegg, 9 Exch. 680,
(d) Anonymous, Freem. Chanc. Cas. 28, pl. 22, b.
(e) Wankford v. Wankford, 1 Salk, 306, 307.
(f) By Lord Holt, in Wankford v. Wankford, 1 Salk. 309. Quære, whether, when a debtor makes his creditor his executor, who dies after having intermeddled with his goods, but before probate, and before any election made to retain, the executor of the executor may retain; See Croft v. Pyke, 3 P. Wms. 182, and post, Pt. III. Bk. II. Ch. II. S VI.