The Bottom Line – Some people are determined to have their final say in their strange Last Wills and Testaments. Have a smile at their attempts to ‘rule from beyond the grave’.
1. Ingrid Newkirk
Ingrid Newkirk is the founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the organization that tries to keep humans from eating, wearing or being mean to animals. When Newkirk passes on, she instructs that her corpse be given over to PETA, and then things get weird. She asks that the “meat” of her body be barbecued and eaten, her skin made into leather purses, her eyes plucked out and delivered to government agencies and her liver vacuum-packed and shipped to France.
2. Jeremy Bentham
British lawyer Jeremy Bentham’s Will specified that his body be preserved, stuffed with hay, and displayed in the University College London. The executor of his Will was his best friend Dr. Thomas Smith, who personally dissected and stuffed Bentham’s body.
3. John B. Kelly, Sr.
John B. Kelly, father of Grace Kelly, used his Will to ask his daughter to curb her spending habits. Kelly asked Grace to “not bankrupt the Principality of Monaco with the bills about her clothing.”
4. John Bowman
Vermont socialite John Bowman’s story is a sad one. His wife and daughter died before he did, and Bowman held the illusion that the whole family would come back to life once he joined them on the other side. When he passed in 1891, he set up a trust of $50,000 to employ a staff to upkeep his home and cook a family meal every day — just in case they all came back to life.
5. Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was a ‘candle in the wind’, and her troubled life prompted her to not leave her estate to her family. Instead, Marilyn left all of her personal effects to her acting coach, Lee Strasberg, with the understanding that he was to distribute them among her friends. However, all of her belongings sat in Lee’s basement until the day he died. Apparently Lee’s widow auctioned them off after his death, and earned millions of dollars for herself.
6. Mark Gruenwald
The Executive Editor of Captain American and Iron Man, as well as being involved in other Marvel Comics, Gruenwald stated that he wished for his ashes to be mixed with the ink used to print the comic books. They were.
7. Mickey Rooney
Actor Mickey Rooney didn’t have much left at the time of his death in 2014 — only about $80,000. That didn’t stop his family from creating some legal drama about his Will. Rooney disinherited his wife of 35 years and all of his biological children, who contested the Will and eventually lost.
8. Napoleon Bonaparte
The Last French Emperor stated in his Last Will and Testament that his head be shaved after his death, and his hair divided up among his friends.
9. Nina Wang
Once dubbed the richest woman in Asia, Wang left her entire estate valued at $12.8 billion to a charity that she and her late husband (who was kidnapped and later declared legally dead) founded in 1988. Her Will was bitterly disputed in a lengthy and dramatic court battle between the charity and Wang’s supposed lover at the time of her death, Tony Chan. A fortune teller, married man and “opportunist,” according to the judge who tried the case, Chan was accused of forging a fake Will in an attempt to claim rights to the fortune.
10. Patricia O’Neill
Patricia O’Neil, daughter of the Countess of Kenmore, is a great animal lover. Her Will currently stipulates that her pet chimpanzee, Kalu, will inherit her $80 million estate when O’Neal dies.
11. Philip Seymour Hoffman
When actor Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away of an apparent overdose in 2014, his Will kicked up some family drama. Hoping to avoid turning his children into “trust fund kids,” Hoffman left everything to his girlfriend instead of his children. He also requested that his son, Cooper, be raised in three cities: New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, apparently in an attempt to foster their artistic temperament.
12. Ray Fulk
We’ve all entertained the fantasy of a long-lost rich relative remembering us in their Wills for a financial windfall, but how about a total stranger? Ray Fulk was a hermit-like Illinois farmer who lived all alone on property he’d inherited from his father. He had no living relatives and few friends in his area, so when he passed on in 2012 Fulk left his entire estate to a pair of B-level Hollywood actors, Kevin Brophy and Peter Barton. Barton was on “The Young And The Restless” in the late 1980s and Brophy starred in the forgotten ’70s drama “Lucan The Wolf Boy.” Each actor took away more than a half a million dollars from the odd bequest.
13. Reverend John Gwyon
Many people use their Last Will and Testament to establish a charity, making the world a better place once they’re dead and gone. That’s all well and good, but somebody should probably have talked things over with the Reverend John Gwyon about his plans before he died in 1939. Gwyon’s Will mandated that his entire estate be liquidated and the money set aside to create the “Gwyon’s Boys Clothing Foundation” which would provide new underpants to white children age 10-15 in his hometown. Each pair had “Gwyon’s Present” printed on the waistband and kids could exchange old ones for new ones.
14. Samuel Bratt
When Samuel Bratt passed on in 1960, leaving his estate to his wife, it came with a provision. Mr. Bratt was never allowed to smoke cigars during his life, as his spouse thought they were noxious. So in exchange for keeping his fortune from going to charity, Bratt’s widow was required to smoke five cigars every day.
15. Sandra West
Ancient civilizations used to believe that you could take some of your personal effects to the afterlife with you if you were buried with them. Some people still use their Last Will and Testament to bring stuff six feet under. One of the most notorious cases is a young socialite named Sandra West, who was obsessed with her blue 1964 Ferrari 250GT. When she passed away in 1977, she left her multi-million dollar estate to her brother-in-law contingent on one thing: she needed to be buried in her car. So her corpse was put in the driver’s seat, the car was put in a crate and lowered into a massive hole in the ground, where it was covered in cement.
16. Solomon Sanborn
In addition to your personal possessions, it’s often considered smart to mandate what happens to your corpse in your Will. Most people opt for burial or cremation, but hatmaker Solomon Sanborn had a very different idea. Being such a proud Revolutionary War veteran, when the hatmaker passed away in 1871 Sanborn bequeathed his skin to a local hide tanner with the instruction to make it into a set of drums, which would then be given to a musician who would take the grisly percussion to Bunker Hill every June 17th and perform “Yankee Doodle Dandy” on the anniversary of the famous battle.
17. Thomas Shewbridge
While not hugely famous in life, California prune rancher Thomas Shewbridge’s Last Will and Testament edged him a bit closer to notoriety following his death. He turned over shareholder rights of his estate to his two dogs, making them owners of 29,000 stock shares in the local electric company. The dogs regularly attended stockholders’ and board of directors’ meetings.
18. William Randolph Hearst
Magazine mogul William Randolph Hearst used his Will to put rumours to rest. He stated that anyone who could prove they were his child would receive one whole dollar. We guess that was Hearst’s way of disproving the theories that he’d had illegitimate children!
19. Unknown Horse Rider
“When I die make my skin into a saddle and gift it to a beautiful woman, so that I am in between two of my favourite things in life even after 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
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– What is Probate and is it always required in South Australia?
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