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Diana's will can be ordered online

Published 18/04/2015

Data centre manager Qadir Ahmed inspects one of the more than 41 million public wills held in secure storage at the Iron Mountain facility in Birmingham
Data centre manager Qadir Ahmed inspects one of the more than 41 million public wills held in secure storage at the Iron Mountain facility in Birmingham

The will of Diana Princess of Wales is among 41 million now available to order at the click of a button.

Diana's final wishes for the disposal of her £21,468,352 estate, including her bequest of £50,000 to butler Paul Burrell, are among the vast collection of documents whose contents shed light on the stories of millions.

All the wills were already publicly available - with the exception of the Royal Family's, but can now be ordered much more easily, according to data chiefs.

Qadir Ahmed runs the secure Iron Mountain facility in a leafy suburb of Birmingham where row upon row of the documents are kept in temperature-controlled storage, under tight security.

He said the wills are a fascinating snapshot into the personalities and characters of people from every walk of life.

For some, having a copy of a will is a matter of sentimentality, whereas others - particularly in the case of celebrities - are ordered out of "pure curiosity", he said.

"We have 41 million in storage and there are so many fascinating and emotional stories," said Mr Ahmed.

One such is that of the late Paul Hunter, the champion snooker player, who died of cancer in 2006 aged just 27.

The Yorkshireman fathered a daughter who, at the time he penned his will, was not yet born but she is remembered in the passages of his will, as Mr Ahmed describes.

"There are some really touching stories inside these files - people like Paul Hunter, who in his will says 'To my unborn child, I leave ...' and that is genuinely touching.

"He believed at the time he was writing this will, that he wouldn't survive the birth of his child."

"You feel the emotion of that moment, through reading the record."

Another will which continues to fascinate the public - it is by far the most popular in terms of orders - is the will of Diana, who died in 1997.

The first disbursement of her will reads: "I bequeath to my butler Paul Burrell the sum of £50,000, free of inheritance tax."

It also provides for specified keepsakes including watercolour paintings and a carriage clock to be distributed among her 17 godchildren, while to Princes William and Harry she left everything else.

In the event of her death she makes express provision the Prince of Wales "will consult with my mother [Frances Shand Kydd] with regard to the upbringing, education and welfare of our children".

She also makes clear her wish to be buried.

Mr Ahmed said the new system, which has been in place since the end of last year, means people no longer have to order wills by post, or by heading to their local Registry Office.

"A lot of the public are not aware these are public records," he said.

"Once someone goes through probate, that's it.

"It's a simple process, through the gov.uk website.

"You can pay a small fee of £10 and order a record of anyone who's gone through probate, searching by the person's name and year of death."

Among the other celebrity wills, are those of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, creator of Winnie the Pooh AA Milne and George Orwell - under his real name Eric Blair - who penned 1984.

Churchill, who died in 1965, left an estate worth £266,054 which he asked to be divided between his wife and children.

He gave his country home Chartwell, in Kent, to the National Trust to be a museum after his death.

As well as other bequests of cash to his wife, children, family and friends, he also left money to his employees, including £100 for his gardener.

His son-in-law, Arthur Christopher John Soames, was given "such of my brood mares, followers and fillies" from Churchill's stable, but with the caveat his choices were "not exceeding three in number, nor £7,500 in total value".

Also stored away is the will of wartime code-breaker Alan Turing, recently played in Hollywood movie The Imitation Game by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Turing's brief final testament directs his possessions be left to close friends and his mother.

Meanwhile, Orwell - listed under his birth name Blair - left instructions "no biography be written" and "no memorial service be held for me after my death".

Their wills and any others, from 1858 to the present day, can be ordered online by visiting www.gov.uk/wills-probate-inheritance/searching-for-probate-records

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