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Death Duty Records, From 1796

Domestic Records

"Death Duties"

From 1796 legacy, succession and estate duty ('death duties') were payable on many estates in England and Wales over a certain value. This value changed over time. As the scope of estate duty was extended throughout the nineteenth century, so more people were included. Before 1805, the registers cover about a quarter of all estates: by 1857, there should be an entry for all estates except those worth less than ?20. However, unless the assets were valued at ?1,500 or more, the taxes were often not collected, and so the register entry was not filled in with all the details. Death duties were not required of people who died in the service of their country.

For the procedure involved in paying death duties, see Ham's Inland Revenue Yearbook. The National Archives Library has copies of this annual work (under slightly varying titles) from 1875 to 1930. For more information, see the Series Description for IR 26 and IR 27 . After 1903, individual files were kept for each case: most have not been preserved.

Information in the Death Duty Registers, 1796-1903

The registers in IR 26 between 1796 and 1903 include information not found elsewhere. They show what happened to someone's personal estate (not freehold) after death; and what it was actually worth, excluding debts and expenses. They can give the name of the deceased, with address and last occupation, the date of the will, the place and date of probate, the names, addresses and occupations of the executors, and details of estates, legacies, trustees, legatees, annuities and the duty paid. They can also give the date of death, and information about the people who received bequests (beneficiaries), or who were the next-of-kin, such as exact relationship to the deceased. Tax was not payable on bequests to people within a closely defined family circle, and as a result the family relationship was often noted in the registers. In 1796, tax was not payable on bequests to offspring, spouse, parents and grandparents. In 1805, the exemption was restricted to spouse and parents. From 1815, only bequests to the spouse were exempt from paying tax. Because the registers could be annotated for many years after the first entry, they can include information such as dates of death of spouse; dates of death or marriage of beneficiaries; births of posthumous children and grandchildren; change of address; references to law suits, cross references to other entries, etc. If any of the estate was left in trust before 1852, look at the Reversionary Registers as well.

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