Your will is probably a pretty straightforward document, one that will eventually be used to divide up your things among your beneficiaries. Your estate, defined as your possessions, property, and money, may or may not amount to much, but you have it divided up for the people that you love. But there are some crazy stories about people deciding to use their will to flout tradition or custom. Here are a few of the wild things that people have decided to do with their estates.
A Fortune Left to Random Strangers Found in a Telephone Book
Portuguese aristocrat Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral de Camara had few friends and no relations, so he decided to leave his fortune in the hands of random strangers. He was an illegitimate son of an aristocrat who had been left quite a lot of valuable real estate by his grandmother. When creating his will, he asked for a Lisbon phone book and picked 70 names at random and listed them as his beneficiaries. In a fantastic ending to this story, these 70 people actually received the money which came to several thousand euros each!
Will Shakespeare Gives Wife “Second-Best Bed”
The most well-known line in William Shakespeare’s will is the bestowal of his second-best bed. While a little strange itself, this inheritance has caused quite a debate among scholars, with some suggesting that he didn’t like Anne or that she was an invalid who was not capable of managing the estate. Others have pointed out that the best bed is not mentioned anywhere else and it may be the bed that Shakespeare died in or the matrimonial bed. We may not know his reasoning, but it does make for an interesting discussion.
An Anonymous Bequest to Clear the National Debt
In 1928, a donor left the British government half a million pounds to clear the national debt with. Due to the terms of the will, the government cannot actually use it unless the donation completely removes all of the nation’s national debt. By modern times, the bequest is now worth over £350 million, but the national debt is still over 3,000 times that amount. Barclay’s, who are the managers of the funds, are seeking a court order to change the terms of the will to allow them to use the money to pay off some of the debt or to convert it to charitable grants.
$12 Million to a Maltese Dog
In a real-life version of The Aristocats, a wealthy woman decided to leave a substantial part of her fortune to her nine-year-old Maltese dog, appropriately named Trouble. Leona Helmsley said she was cutting off two of her grandchildren for “reasons which are known to them.” Her descendants contested the will, and the Maltese ended up traveling under a fake name and having a private security team to protect it from death threats and kidnapping. A judge did reduce the amount to $2 million but had the rest placed in trust to be donated to charities.
Jeremy Bentham’s Body
This crazy will bequest involved the deceased willing his corpse to a family friend as a keepsake. His will stipulated that his body be carefully dissected, preserved, and mounted in a lifelike position inside a wooden and glass cabinet. Bentham died in 1832, and his auto-icon is displayed at the University College London. The auto-icon consists of his skeleton, padded with hay and dressed in his clothes and a wax version of his head with some of his real hair. His head was damaged during the mummification process and looked distasteful, so it was displayed near the case until it was removed due to student pranks.
These wills might all seem wacky, but they definitely do a good job of making sure that the deceased’s wishes are met. It definitely shows that having the right legal protection can make it easy to have your instructions followed even after death.