I soon learned that it was available through the excellent Tolkien Shop (TolkienWinkle) in Holland**, who as usual have available the most amazing selection of out-of-the-way Tolkien items (it's not for nothing that their owner combines his Leiden shop with The Tolkien Museum). But since I don't do Paypal, payment turned out to be unexpectedly difficult. When combined with the shipping costs (which was more than the cost of the item itself) and an unfavorable exchange rate (grr), it turned out to be far more than I wanted to pay for a four-page photocopy.
Fall back to Plan B. I asked a friend in England if he could get it and then forward it to me, since it'd both be cheaper and less fuss that way. Turned out he had a much better idea (Plan C): why not just get it from the probate office? So he did -- one for himself and another for me, at a v. reasonable rate. And so a nice clean copy, beautifully embossed by the 'Seal of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice', arrived safely a little before Thanksgiving. [Thanks Charles!]
The Will itself is fairly simple and straightforward. Having been signed on the twenty-third of July 1973, only a few weeks before Tolkien's death (on Sept. 2nd), it would have replaced an earlier will.*** Aside from appointing his executors (his solicitor F. R. Williamson and sons Michael and Christopher, the latter of whom is also designated his Literary Executor) and stating his desire to be buried, the first part of the will is devoted to specific bequests:
--a thousand pounds to the Birmingham Oratory in memory of Fr. Francis (and the Fathers' kindness to JRRT after he was orphaned)
--five hundred pounds to Trinity College, which he hopes wd be used to help out a hard-up undergraduate****
--three hundred pounds to Exeter College
--two hundred pounds to Pembroke College
--two hundred pounds to David Havard, his godson
--a thousand pounds to Joan Baker, his granddaughter
He suggests the bequests to Exeter and Pembroke be used to buy some article of silver for their senior common rooms (which reminded me of the rings Shakespeare asked his friends to buy to remember him by). Exeter was of course his own college as an undergraduate, while Pembroke gave him his first Oxford professorship. I was a bit surprised to find Merton unmentioned, but assume he'd already made other arrangements there before his death.
According to the cover letter from the Probate Registry accompanying the will, his estate was valued at 190,577.60 pounds (gross), or 144,159.29 (net), and the tax bill came to 42,019.50 pounds. After asking that his personal effect be distributed among his family as his executors see fit, he sets up a trust with the remainder of his estate, to be shared equally among his children and their children after them. He also (wisely) urges the executors to keep his copyrights in the family if at all possible.
The one great exception to this are his 'literary assets' ("my library and all my manuscripts typescripts notes and all other articles connected with my work as an author"), which he entrusts (literally) to Christopher as Literary Executor, granting him the right to
"publish edit alter rewrite or complete any work of mine
which may be unpublished at my death or to destroy the whole
or any part or parts of any such unpublished works as he
in his absolute discretion may think fit and subject thereto"
Wow. That's quite a vote of confidence, saying Christopher could publish it, in whole or in part, or destroy it, in whole or in part. His father trusted his judgment, explicitly granting him permission to do whatever he thought right with the mass of manuscripts left in his keeping.
I'm glad he decided not to have one big bonfire, and that he devoted the next third of a century to sorting, transcribing, analyzing, and publishing so much of those papers. The world would be a poorer place if CT had followed the Mary Renault example.*****
*** (cf. the Note to Letter #315 [January 1970], which mentions the trust he had set up for his children; there is also mention in an unpublished letter from the 1950s about his having willed his papers to the Bodleian)
****this concern for hard-up students was typical of Tolkien; cf. Jn Lawlor's account.
*****Renault had long-standing instructions to her partner that if she died leaving a work unfinished, her partner was to destroy it -- which she loyally did, despite the anguish it caused her and her personal opinion that the Arthurian novel Renault had half-finished was her best work.