/ Wills

Estate Planning in Ancient Egypt

If you follow our blog, or even our newsletter, you might have noticed that we’ve been writing about wills for a while now. This is for two reasons:

  1. We’ve launched the Canada Will Registry and we’re pretty excited to help people find missing wills, and,
  2. Wills are a big deal.

Writing a will ensures that you have a say over how your estate is handled after you die. This is nothing new. The oldest known will was created in Ancient Egypt.

The oldest known will was discovered in Kahun, Egypt by archeologist William Matthew "Flinders" Petrie in 1890. So just how old was this papyrus will? It was dated by scientists to have been made in 1797 B.C. by a man by the name of Ankh-ren, a “devoted servant of the superintendent of works.”

Ankh-ren’s will wasn’t the only one found there. He had a brother, who is believed to be a priest, named Uah who also made a will.

The contents of Ankh-ren’s will specify leaving all of his property to his brother Uah. Uah’s will makes reference to this in own will, where he states that the property inherited from Ankh-ren will go to his wife Teta, with the stipulation that the inherited houses must not be destroyed.

In the will Teta is instructed that she may distribute the property amongst their children as she sees fit. Uah even specifies a guardian by the name of Gebu for his son. To finish it off, Uah had two scribes as witnesses.

Although it’s unlikely that these testators intended for their wills to be found a few thousand years later, it’s certainly an excellent lesson on how to keep your legal documents safe. For those of you who don’t have the luxury of a perfectly preserved tomb to keep your will in, we suggest some other good places, here. You can also register your wills on the Canada Will Registry.

So, it turns out that Ankh-ren and his brother Uah had pretty run of the mill requests for their estate plans. Ancient Egyptians - they’re just like us.