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If There's A Will, There's Now A Way (To Access Them In The U.K.)

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

If you want to take a look at Charles Dickens' last will and testament, you can. In the UK, last wishes are a matter of public record, open to just about anyone. But, up until a few days ago, you had to clear a gauntlet just to find them.

NICK CLARK: You know, you had to be there in person. You had to make - you had to know how to do it, make all the right written inquiries and then it would be sent back over.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

You get the idea - a lot of red tape, as described there by Nick Clark. He's a reporter for The Independent. But now the process is a lot simpler. You can just go online. Clark says some 41 million wills are accessible.

CLARK: Essentially starting all the way back from when probate service records began in 1858.

SIEGEL: For each person you want to look up, it'll cost you a small fee - 10 pounds. That's about $15.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You can find famous Brits like George Orwell. His will states he wanted all of his manuscripts painstakingly preserved, by the way. Or the economist, John Maynard Keynes, he wanted all of his notes destroyed.

SIEGEL: And then there's Dickens himself, who also had specific ideas for how he wanted to be remembered.

CLARK: He asked that no monuments be put up in his honor, and he wanted his writing, really, to stand the test of time as his only memorial.

SIEGEL: Of course, some requests are harder to honor than others. For now, though, it'll be a little less difficult to find those requests in the first place. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.