Famous Last Words – Some people try to tell you that “you can’t take it with you,” but that doesn’t mean you have to go quietly into the night. A vital part of pre-death planning is composing a Last Will and Testament that clearly lays out who gets your stuff and your money. But some people also use them as a final “screw you” to the world. These people were determined to have their final say, with their strange Last Wills and Testaments.
1. Adam Yauch
Adam “MCA” Yauch of the American hip hop group Beastie Boys didn’t want death to loosen his grip on his music. The final line of his Will stipulated that neither his likeness nor his music be used for advertising purposes.
2. Alexander McQueen
British fashion designer Alexander McQueen was a creative genius who died in 2010. He left most of his fortune to charity, but earmarked nearly $75,000 for his dogs.
3. Benjamin Franklin
Ben Franklin was a genius with strong opinions about many things. When he drew up his Will he left his daughter 408 diamonds — on the condition that she never turn them into jewellery “and thereby introduce… the expensive, vain, and useless fashion of wearing jewels in this country.”
4. Charles Dickens
English author Charles Dickens was really particular about his funeral. In his Will he made sure to write out wardrobe requirements for his memorial service. He requested that “those attending my funeral wear no scarf, cloak, black bow, long hat-band, or other such revolting absurdity.”
5. Charles Vance Millar
Canadian lawyer Charles Vance Millar was a lifelong bachelor with no family to which he could leave his modest fortune. His love of practical jokes kept him laughing straight to the grave, after his death in 1926. After he settled affairs with his housekeeper and some business partners in his Will, he ordered that the remainder of his property be converted into cash and kept in a trust for ten years.
At the end of that decade, the entire sum would be given to the woman in Toronto who had given birth to the most children during that time, starting a “Bay Derby” (aka “Great Stork Derby”). Needless to say, this set off a baby boom in the city, with the winners being four women who each delivered nine babies. They each got $142,500, which was a fortune in 1936.
6. Doris Duke
The heiress and daughter of James Buchanan “Buck” Duke, founder of the American Tobacco Company and North Carolina’s Duke University, is said to have “never smiled in pictures” from childhood to death. Her passing created the Doris Duke Foundation, a charitable organization worth more than a billion dollars.
However, her last Will and testament also stated that $100 million was to be secured in a pet trust for her dogs. The matter was disputed in court for nearly ten years. In 2004, a judge finally awarded $20,000 to two of her former servants who had been caring for the dogs.
7. Dusty Springfield
The British ’60s pop singer left very specific instructions in her Will. Springfield’s Will demanded that her cat, Nicholas, be fed imported baby food, live in an indoor tree house, be sung to sleep at night with Dusty’s old records, have his bed lined with Dusty’s pillowcase and nightgown, and get married to a friend’s female cat.
8. Ed Headrick
Ed Headrick invented the Frisbee, and even used to say that Frisbee was “a religion.” At his death, he requested that his ashes be moulded into limited-edition Frisbees — a request that his family honoured.
9. Eleanor Ritchey
Heiress to the Quaker State Refining Corporation, Ritchey left about $14 million to her 150 stray dogs. When the last dog died, the remainder was to go to Auburn University Research Foundation with the funds dedicated to research on canine disease.
10. Farrah Fawcett
Farrah Fawcett’s Will caused quite a stir after her passing in 2009, when it was discovered that she left nothing to long-time love Ryan O’Neal. Who knows what the story is behind this?
11. Gene Roddenberry
The creator of Star Trek and inventor of the notable quote “to boldly go where no man has gone before” made certain to maintain that statement long after his passing. His last Will and Testament included instructions to have his ashes scattered via a space satellite orbiting earth. The act was carried out in 1997.
12. Golda Bechal
Golda Bechal was a British millionaire who really loved Chinese food. She left almost her entire multimillion dollar fortune to her favourite restaurant!
13. Harold West
London banker Harold West couldn’t shake the fear that a vampire was going to come for his corpse and re-animate him. So in his Will, West insisted that a doctor examine his body and pierce his heart with a metal rod to make sure he didn’t rise from the grave. West died at the age of 90 and his family physician reluctantly carried out his request.
14. Harry Houdini
Harry Houdini always had a trick up his sleeve, and apparently he expected to work some magic in the afterlife as well. The renowned master illusionist, escapee and daredevil died in 1926 on Halloween. Towards the end of his life, Houdini had become fascinated by the idea of an afterlife and spiritual mediums.
Houdini promised his wife, Bess, that he would contact her in the afterlife, using a pre-planned ten digit secret message that only she would know, to silence naysayers when she eventually reported his presence (she never did). His last Will and Testament stated that a séance should be held each anniversary of his death.
Weird Wills – Are They Legal?
A substantial percentage of “weird Wills” end up being contested in Court, causing family unnecessary stress and delay, and eroding the estate with massive Court and legal costs. Be careful.
If you are thinking about writing something ‘weird’ into your Will, you’d better seek legal advice first. Your Will and its contents is a serious matter. Isn’t it worth ensuring that it delivers the outcome that you want?
Should you write something in it that, however inadvertently, invalidates it you might die intestate – leaving your loved ones with the inevitable emotional and financial fallout of this to deal with.
If you don’t have a Will or have one that needs updating we offer a cost effective and convenient estate planning service. Our specialist expert consultants can come to you and our rates are very competitive. To learn more about our services please call 08 8212 7233 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Weird Probate Issues Articles Series
- Weird Probate Issues
- More Weird Probate Issues
- Weird Probate Issues Part 3
- Weird Probate Issues Part 4
- Weird Probate Issues Part 5
- Weird Probate Issues Part 6
- Weird Probate Issues Part 7
- Weird Probate Issues Part 8
- Weird Probate Issues Part 9
- Weird Probate Issues Part 10
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The Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes, how they can cost your family a fortune, and How to Avoid Them.
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