Well, I can't claim to know a whole lot about this subject, and I'm too busy to look it up, unless there's a hot demand for info on the topic, but here's what I'd say in my professional capacity if backed to a wall.
Yes, A-S nobles did leave written wills in some number, although it's my understanding that this was primarily to address issues that weren't regulated by law and custom, such as giving land to the church. Matters of filial inheritance were normally addressed by law and thus didn't need to be specified in a will.
So far as we know, A-S ceorls didn't leave wills. The reasons are several. Literacy was virtually unknown among peasants, whereas it was moderately common among the nobility. Peasants simply don't have the skills to produce or read wills. Secondly, most peasants didn't own enough valuable property to bother willing it to someone, and what they did own they could easily be governed by law and custom. Thirdly, it's not completely impossible that a few better off peasants did leave wills which haven't survived. I wouldn't bet on it, but it's not inconceivable.
That's my two cents worth, but take it with a grain of salt.
Andrew E. Larsen
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