Most people consider their Last Will and Testament to be a serious document that reflects their wishes for the distribution of their estate assets after they are gone. Occasionally, however, a Testator uses his/her Will to make a statement or to make a point. Such was the case in the following Wills that will undoubtedly be remembered not just by the beneficiaries and heirs of the estates, but by anyone who reads the provisions included in them.
A Dog Really Is Man’s Best Friend
In 2004, billionaire hotelier Leona Helmsley changed an earlier Will that left her $4 billion fortune to the poor, including a provision directing the money to be spent caring for dogs. Her nine-year-old Maltese, Trouble, also received $12 million in the Will, completely cutting out her grandchildren or requiring them to visit their father’s grave annually in order to inherit their share. Trouble’s bequest was later reduced to a mere $2 million.
When Carlotta Liebenstein, a German countess, died in 1991, she left her entire $80-million estate to her dog, Gunther.
The Truly Bizarre
Portuguese aristocrat Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara left his considerable fortune to 70 strangers randomly chosen out of a Lisbon phone directory. “I thought it was some kind of cruel joke,” a 70-year-old heiress told Portugal’s Sol newspaper. “I’d never heard of the man.
Jeremy Bentham, an 18th-and-19th-century social philosopher, left a particularly strange bequest in his Will — his preserved, clothed body. His 1832, his clothed skeleton topped with a wax model of his head has been preserved in a wood-and-glass cabinet known as the Auto-Icon. It now resides at University College London and is occasionally moved so Bentham can “attend” meetings. Even stranger, Bentham wanted his actual head to be included. In fact, he reportedly carried around the glass eyes he wanted to be used in his preserved face for years before his death. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), the preservation process distorted his face, so the wax replica was required.
Having the Last Laugh
Roger Brown, of Great Britain, lost his life to prostate cancer in 2013, leaving behind a secret bequest of £3,500 to seven of his closest friends, with the proviso that they use it for a boozy weekend away to a European city. “We would like to formally apologise to Roger’s two sons, Sam and Jack, for taking away some of their inheritance,” beneficiary Roger Rees told the South Wales Evening Post after the friends spent a weekend in Berlin. “We spent most of it on beer, the rest we wasted.”
When the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson died, he left his friend Annie H. Ide his birthday. Ide had previously complained to Stevenson about the inconvenience of being born on Christmas, so the writer left her November 13th as a new birthday provided she take care of it with “moderation and humanity… the said birthday not being so young as it once was.”
Having the Last Word
Michigan millionaire Wellington Burt was clearly a bitter man when he died in 1919. His will specified that his vast fortune would not be passed on until 21 years after the death of his last surviving grandchild. She died in 1989 and the 21-year countdown ended on November 2010. About 12 people discovered they were beneficiaries of the strange Will, described as a “legacy of bitterness,” and shared his $110 million fortune.
German poet Heinrich “Henry” Heine left his estate to his wife, Matilda, in 1856 on the condition that she remarry, so that “there will be at least one man to regret my death”.
The Eternal Romantic
Comedian Jack Benny included a truly romantic provision in his Will when he died in 1974. “Every day since Jack has gone the florist has delivered one long-stemmed red rose to my home,” his widow Mary Livingstone wrote in a magazine, shortly after his death. “I learned Jack actually had included a provision for the flowers in his Will. One red rose to be delivered to me every day for the rest of my life.”
Contact an Indianapolis Estate Planning Attorney
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