Legal Papers of John Adams, volume 1

Adams' Address and Minutes of the Argument

Adams' Minutes of the Trial


As to the English practice, see 12 Holdsworth, History of English Law 686–689, 695–697; Atkinson, “The Development of the Massachusetts Probate System,” 42 Mich. L. Rev. 425–426 (1943). The basic provision in Massachusetts was the Act of 1 Nov. 1692, c. 14, 1 A&R 43–45, which provided that all lands held in fee might be disposed of by will and that wills were to be submitted to probate under penalty of law. In the event of intestacy administration of both realty and personalty was to be granted and supervised by the judge of probate. Later provisions are summarized in Atkinson, “Massachusetts Probate System,” 42 Mich. L. Rev. 440–447. Atkinson, id. at 445, states that the Act of 17 June 1723, c. 3, 2 A&R 284–285, gave the lands of the deceased directly to the heirs at death, thus removing them from administration. The 1723 act, however, seems to provide only that an administrator de bonis non (i.e. “of the goods not” administered by a previous administrator or executor), appointed for a supplemental administration, was to have no power over unadministered real estate, which descended to the heirs automatically. Subsequent legislation indicates that the provisions of the 1692 act as to administration and distribution of realty by the original administrator were not altered. See Act of 1 Jan. 1735, c. 16, 2 A&R 738; Act of 12 April 1750, c. 20, 3 A&R 495.