Here we go again, with more Wacky Wills, Poisonous Probates and Dreadful Deaths. If you’re twisted like us, you might get a smile out of some of the strange stuff people do at the end of their lives …
#1 Wellington Burt
US lumber tycoon Wellington Burt died in 1919. His Will directed that most of his fortune be put into a trust fund, which would only pay out 21 years after his last surviving grandchild passed away.
His immediate heirs, who had expected to receive his fortune, saw very little of it. When the trust vested in 2010, a fortune of around $110m (£67.5m) was shared amongst 12 beneficiaries, none of whom ever knew the man.
#2 John Bowman
The Virginian Millionaire John Bowan built a mausoleum to hold the remains of his wife and two daughters who passed away prior to his death. Bowman was convinced that after he died the whole family would be reincarnated together. He passed away in 1891 and in his Will a $50,000 trust fund was left to maintain his mansion and the mausoleum.
The will provided that the house staff of the mansion were to prepare dinner every night just in case the Bowman family was hungry after returning from the dead. Additionally, no one was allowed to stay in the house overnight so they wouldn’t disturb the ghostly residents. This was carried out every night until 1950 when the trust fund was depleted.
#3 Alexander McQueen
British fashion designer Alexander McQueen stunned the fashion world when he committed suicide in 2010. After the reading of his Will, people were shocked to discover that he left £50,000 of his estate in trust for the up keep of his pet dogs.
#4 Gene Rodenberry
The creator of the Star Trek loved space and science fiction so much that he requested that his body be cremated and his ashes scattered in space. His famous quote “to boldly go where no man has gone before” was realised when his final wishes were carried in 1997 when his ashes were shot into the atmosphere as the satellite orbited the planet.
#5 Eleanor Ritchey
The heiress to the Quaker State Refining Corporation, left $14 million to her 150 stray dogs. When the last dog died, surplus funds went to the Auburn University Research Foundation which was dedicated to research on canine disease.
#6 Mort Zachter
New York accountant Mort Zachter, grew up seeing his parents work 100 hours a week in a bakery owned by his uncles Henry and Joe. His parents were paid in leftover bread and cake from the bakery, and life was a constant struggle. It wasn’t until Zachter was 36 that he found out his uncles were a lot more successful than he realised, and they were leaving him their $6 million fortune. He also discovered that his parents had known all along that their son would be the sole heir, and they refused to take any of that money as income, preferring to sacrifice for his benefit.
#7 Nina Wang
Once the richest woman in Asia, Nina Wang rewrote her Will after finding out she had cancer, and left her massive fortune to fengshui master, Tony Chan. Allegedly, he told Wang that completing certain fengshui practices (such as including him in her Will), would help her live forever. Wang passed away in 2007, so this self-evidently did not work. Her previous Will left her estimated $4.2 billion US fortune to her family, and various charities. A law suit was filed immediately, claiming Chan had tricked Wang into changing her Will. The courts ended up dismissing the second Will, and Chan was arrested under suspicion of forgery. The money went to Wang’s family, and the charities she had originally intended.
#8 Rufino Otero
It took a nine year legal battle, and the exhumation of a grandmother’s remains, but retired Argentine maid, Eva Paole, finally legally inherited her birth father’s $40 million fortune. She suspected she might be the daughter of Baron Rufino Otero, but her mother took the truth of her biological father to her grave. Officials had to exhume Otero’s mother in order to compare DNA and confirm Paole’s parentage. They were unable to compare her DNA with Otero himself, because shortly after his death, his tomb was desecrated, and his body switched with another one.
Eva Paole, a retired Argentine maid, has inherited the whopping sum of $40 million after a nine-year legal battle. It was a decade ago that Paole first heard the rumor that she might be the daughter of baron Rufino Otero, who died in 1983 and had no children with his wife. Until then, Paole always had thought she was the daughter of her mother, Josefa, and her partner. Her mother took the secret of Eva’s real father to her grave. According to Eva, “money isn’t everything” and what is really important for her is that she has finally discovered her true identity. DNA tests showed she truly is the daughter of the powerful landowner who died 25 years ago.
If all of that wasn’t enough material for a soap opera, six weeks after Eva began legal proceedings, Otero’s tomb was desecrated and his corpse exchanged for another. To establish Paole’s relation to Otero, authorities used the remains of the land baron’s mother, Justina Porras instead.
#9 Josh S
A teenager named Josh had only met his grandfather a few times, but he ended up inheriting an unexpected fortune when that grandfather died, anyway. Samuel did not approve of his daughter’s choice of husband, for religious reasons, but he had a soft spot for his grandson. His will included 80 acres of farmland, and a 36 acre private island. His will also spoke of valuable loose gems and antique jewellery hidden “in the thermos”. Josh’s mother remembered her father talking about his “treasure island” when she was a kid, so the hunt was on for the hidden fortune. The true monetary value of Josh’s inheritance is yet to be seen.
Josh wasn’t close to his grandfather and in fact, he had met him just a handful of times in his 17 years. Stubborn and highly traditional, Samuel disapproved of his daughter Susan’s marriage to a man from outside of their religious faith, but he’d always had a soft spot for his only grandson. Although he hadn’t seen his grandson in years before his death in 2007, Josh was named the heir to what remained of his grandfather’s estate, including a 36-acre island and more than 80 acres of farmland. But there was something unexpected in the will… a detailed list of antique jewellery and loose gems contained “in the thermos.” There was no indication at all of where this portion of Josh’s inheritance was. But Susan did remember the oblique references her father had always made of his “treasure island” when she was a child.
So now the hunt is on, and while finding Samuel’s hidden thermos of precious gems is far from a sure bet, the family is confident that it will soon turn up somewhere on (or under) the island’s 36 acres.
It is important to remember that Wills can be challenged and some final instructions relating to a Will are not always upheld in a court of law. Care should always be taken when completing your Will. If someone successfully challenges a Will it may be deemed invalid, and the court can distribute the estate as if the Will never existed. The estate will then be distributed according to the Rules of Intestacy.
So remember: if you write something in your Will that 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 email@example.com
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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