Strange Requests in Last Wills

Strange Requests in Last Wills

When someone creates a Last Will and Testament, they are usually concerned with how they want their estate to be distributed after their death. Creating a will lets you select specific beneficiaries to receive certain family heirlooms, and allows you to set up trusts for minor children to receive when they reach adulthood.

However, some people view their Last Will as an opportunity to make some unconventional requests from the people who have survived them. These odd wishes can often be chalked up to someone’s eccentric sense of humor, or to some strong emotion they had for something or someone while they were alive.

With that in mind, here is a look at some of the strangest requests people have made in their Last Wills.

Animal Heirs

Many people leave provisions in their wills for the ongoing care of their beloved pets, often naming a pet guardian and leaving an amount of money to cover expenses for a time. Others have taken this a step further, and left large chunks of their estates to their pets, or even their entire estate.

Florida heiress Gail Posner passed away in 2010, leaving her mansion and a $3 million trust fund for her dogs Conchita, April Maria, and Lucia.

Leona Helmsley, the so-called “Queen of Mean” hotelier, left instructions in her will to establish a $12 million trust for her pet Maltese dog. West coast rancher Tom Shewbridge bequeathed 29,000 shares in a local electric company to his two dogs. And, Quaker State heiress Eleanor Ritchey left $14 million to her 150 stray dogs.

In contrast to these rather generous legacies, US heiress Doris Duke’s will authorized the creation of a modest $100,000 trust for her dogs.

Spiteful Inheritances

More than a few people have used their wills to take one final jab at someone they despised when they were alive.

Englishwoman Annie Langabeer bequeathed two shillings and sixpence to her brother, so he could “buy a rope” to hang himself. In 1937, Englishman Frank Smith stated in his will that his estate should go to his daughter—as long as she didn’t keep living with “her immoral husband.”

Even William Shakespeare wasn’t above a final insult, leaving his wife “his second-best bed” while giving the majority of his estate to his daughter.

But, the prize for spiteful inheritances may belong to US millionaire Wellington Burt. After his death in 1919, it was discovered in his will that his substantial fortune was to be withheld from his family members until 21 years after the death of his last surviving grandchild. In 2010, a dozen living relations were informed of their long-delayed inheritances.

Weird Demands in Wills

Finally, we come to some final requests that are just plain goofy. These last wishes make you wonder what the deceased was thinking when they penned their wills.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s final wish was to have his head shaved, and his hair split among his friends.

American Solomon Sanborn instructed in his will that his skin was to be used to make two drums to be given to his friend—but only on the condition that the friend travel to Bunker Hill every June 17 and drum out the beat to “Yankee Doodle” to commemorate the famous battle fought at that location.

John Bowman from Vermont was a believer in reincarnation; so much so that he established a $50 thousand trust in his will for the upkeep of his mansion, so it would be in top shape when he and his family members returned from beyond the mortal threshold. His will also instructed his servants to prepare and serve a full dinner every evening, so there would be something for the returning family members to eat when they arrived. These dinners were cooked and served nightly from 1891 until 1950, when Bowman’s trust finally ran dry.

Sandra West was a California socialite who bequeathed the bulk of her estate to her brother—as long as he ensured she was buried “in her lace nightgown and her Ferrari, with the seat slanted comfortably.” Her brother actually saw that her wishes were carried out.

Finally, there is Luis Carlos. A wealthy Portuguese aristocrat, Carlos chose his beneficiaries and made out his will in a local registry office by randomly selecting 70 people from the Lisbon phone book in front of the notary and two witnesses. All 70 people were notified of their inheritances after his death in 2007.

Leave a Valid Will

While some people have succumbed to the temptation to make humorous demands or leave spiteful provisions in a will, this can leave their wills open to being challenged in court. Your last wishes concerning your estate and final arrangements should comply with established legal standards and conventions if you want them to be carried out.

Aaron Axline

Marketing Writer at LawDepot
Aaron Axline is an author, technology journalist, blogger, and knowledge management expert based in Edmonton, Canada. He likes cats.

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