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Ten of the strangest Wills of all time

Posted by Kings Court Trust | 25-Aug-2015 09:00:00

According to the Guardian, less than half of UK adults have drawn up a Will, which leaves more than 26 million people with no formal instructions on how their assets should be distributed after their death.

For some Britons, a Will isn’t just a list of bequests; it can be seen as a chance to leave a loved-one with a final thoughtful gesture. We have rounded up ten of the strangest bequests for anyone who needs a little bit of inspiration!

1) Legendary US comedian Jack Benny included a touching instruction in his Will upon passing in 1974. “Every day since Jack died, 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.”

2) A public-spirited donor made a half-million pound bequest to Britain back in 1928, which is now worth more than £350m. Unfortunately the donation was only made on the basis that it should only be passed on once it is enough to clear the entire national debt. Unfortunately, as the total national debt currently stands at £1.5tn, the money can’t be touched.

3) Roger Brown, a 67 year old who lost his life to prostate cancer in 2013, made sure that his friends raised a glass for him upon his passing, leaving behind £3,500 to seven of his closest friends on the basis that they could only use it for a boozy weekend away in a European city.

4) Poor Anne Hathaway, also known as Mrs William Shakespeare, has gone down in history as being snubbed from beyond the grave. In his Will, Shakespeare left the vast majority of his estate to his daughter Susanna, whilst the ‘second-best bed’ went to his wife.

5) In 2004, billionaire hotelier Leona Helmsley left instructions for her £2.5bn fortune to be spent on care for dogs, after revising an earlier draft that left it to the poor. Her nine-year-old Maltese, Trouble received £8m in the Will, with her grandchildren either cut out or ordered to visit their father’s grave annually in order to inherit their share. Trouble’s inheritance was later cut to £1.2m by a judge, although the dog still needed to go into hiding amid death and kidnap threats.

6) When Keith Owen, a self-made millionaire financier, was diagnosed with cancer, he decided to donate his entire £2.3m fortune to Sidmouth, Devon. His Will specified that the money should be spent on one million flowering bulbs to keep the coastal town awash with colour, with the interest – about £125,000 a year – to be spent on maintaining the town and two nearby villages. The town has yet to plant the bulbs, commenting that this could take a few more years.

7) For some bitter spouses, a last Will and testament is actually a final chance to insult their life partner one more time; which is exactly what German poet Heinrich “Henry” Heine did. Henry left his estate to his wife, Matilda on the condition that she remarries so that “there will be at least one man to regret my death.”

8) Michigan millionaire Wellington Burt used his Will to put his wealth out of reach of his family for almost a full century. When he passed in 1919, his Will was discovered to specify that his 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 they shared a fortunate estimated to be worth $110m.

9) When Frank Mandelbaum’s Will was read it 2007, his instructions were shocking. It was discovered that although he had left behind a $180,000 trust fund for his grandchildren, there was a clause which concerned his son Robert; Robert’s children would only inherit a share if he agreed to marry their mother within six months of their birth. This Will had one small problem in the fact that Robert is gay and is raising his son, Cooper with his husband.

10) Portuguese aristocrat Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral de Camada instructed his inheritance to be left to 70 strangers randomly chosen out of a Lisbon phone directory. “I thought it was some kind of cruel joke”, said a 70-year-old heiress.

What are your opinions on these Will instructions? Have you ever come across a Will that is out of the ordinary?

Author: Kings Court Trust

Kings Court Trust is an award-winning probate and estate administration provider that support families at the difficult time of losing a loved one. Our tax and legal teams have the expertise to advise on any situation. We are committed to offering families a great service for a fair price which is why we work on a fixed fee basis so they know exactly what our service will cost from the outset.

Topics: IHT, Industry News, Inheritance Tax, Will Making, Will Registration, Wills