Don’t let Monday define you. You define Monday.
Don’t let Monday define you. You define Monday.
People are weird. People’s possessions are weird. What people do with their possessions is weird. Estate planning isn’t so weird. In fact, it’s a regular “adult” thing to do, and it’s pretty crucial if not slightly necessary for the wellbeing and comfort of your family and loved ones.
When you’re an estate planning attorney, even in notorious Daytona Beach, Florida, it’s not very often that you come across weird wills or quirky (or downright disturbing and perplexing estate plans), but after hearing a few “doozies” on the topic of famous weird will requests, I’ve compiled some that might give you a laugh, a shock––or just make you scratch your head a little.
Here are 13 of the weirdest last will and testament requests in the history of estate planning:
When S. Sanborn (an American hat maker) died in 1871, he left his body to science, bequeathing it to a guy named Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., (a professor of anatomy at Harvard Medical School). Sanborn’s will stipulated that two drums were to be made out of Sanborn’s skin and given to a friend. There was another condition: every June 17 at dawn his friend was instructed to drum out the tune “Yankee Doodle” at Bunker Hill in order to commemorate the anniversary of the famous Revolutionary War battle. The rest of his body was “to be composted for a fertilizer to contribute to the growth of an American elm, to be planted in some rural thoroughfare.” How cute.
When Will Shakespeare died in 1616, he left something of question in his last will and testament: He bequeathed his “second best bed” to his wife, Anne Hathaway. Historians have speculated about the act; however, leaving a bed to someone in those days wasn’t all that weird (a quality bed with no fleas or pests was highly prized)––but why she got his “second best” one is still a mystery.
John Bowman (1816-1891) believed in reincarnation so much, it drove him to leave a trust of $50,000 for his afterlife along with his wife and daughters. The trust paid to maintain his mansion and for the servants to serve dinner each night on the off chance that the family were hungry when they came back from beyond the grave. This continued until 1950 when the trust ran dry.
4. The lady that left a running sum of over 14 million to her dogs.
Eleanor E. Ritchey, heiress to the Quaker State Refining Corporation, passed on her $4.5 million fortune to her 150 dogs when she died in Florida in 1968. The will was contested, and in 1973 the dogs received $9 million (must have had a decent attorney). By the time the estate was finally settled, its value had jumped to $14 million but only 73 of the dogs were still alive. When discussing the female canines left in the will, sources say the term “rich b****” comes to mind. When the last of the family dogs died in 1984, the remainder of the estate went to the Auburn University Research Foundation for research into animal diseases.
Grace Kelly‘s father, John B Kelly, had a somewhat notable request in his will. He left his vast fortune to his daughters ONLY, purposely leaving his son-in-laws out. He stated, “I don’t want to give the impression that I am against [them]. If they are the right type, they will provide for themselves and their families, and what I am able to give my daughters will help pay the dress shop bills which, if they continue as they started out under the able tutelage of their mother, will be quite considerable.”
Another notorious celebrity will tidbit for you: Known for her heavy drinking and drug use, Janis Joplin died of an overdose on October 4, 1970. Janis made changes to her will just two days before her death. She set aside $2,500 to pay for a posthumous all-night party for 200 guests at her favorite pub in San Anselmo, California, “so my friends can get blasted after I’m gone.” The bulk of her estate reportedly went to her parents.
Harry Houdini’s will insisted his wife conduct a seance each year so he could see and speak to her, and he included a special code so that she’d know it was his spirit…
8. The Star Trek star’s will that states his ashes go galactic when he’s goners.
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry demanded his ashes be buried in space. Cool, makes sense I s’pose.
9. The estate planning move involving a requested burial in a Pringles can. Yes, a Pringles can.
Pringles founder Fred Baur’s last will and testament requested he be cremated and buried in a Pringles can. Enough said. If you’re interested in the topic, here’s a TIME article that goes a little deeper into the matter.
10. Another rich lady with a dog, but this one’s not so heartwarming.
Businesswoman Leona Helmsley left her family out of the will, and her 12-million dollar fortune went to her Maltese.
11. And now for the sweetest estate planning last will and testament request ever made, ever:
Before passing away from pancreatic cancer in 1974, comedian Jack Benny left a large sum of money in his will to the local florist, with the promise that one long-stemmed red rose be delivered to his wife of 47 years, Mary, everyday for the rest of her life.
12. The guy who wanted to be embalmed and stuffed with hay so he could sit and stare at you forevermore.
You can make some pretty outlandish requests in your will, but this one’s out there: Lawyer, philosopher and social reformer, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) – as per his will’s instructions – was embalmed, stuffed with hay, dressed, and placed in a chair. His body is displayed at University College London in a glass case.
13. Author leaves his literal birth date to a friend who had that dreaded “Christmas Birthday” curse. Nice guy!
Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, decided not to leave money or property to loved ones, but something far more personal: His birthday. He gave his birthday to his friend Annie H. Ide, whose birthday fell on Christmas day and who admitted to Stevenson that she felt cheated out of a “real birthday” – He left her his birthday of November 13th.
And there you have it, the weirdest will requests in estate planning history. Which one shocked you the most, let us know on Facebook.
About Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law: Heidi Webb is a Daytona Beach estate planning and small business attorney serving the areas of Daytona, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, and beyond with wills, trusts, medicaid planning, small business law, and more. For estate planning and small business tips, follow Heidi S. Webb Attorney at Law on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.
I thought I’d take a breather from my attorney posts about elder law, estate planning and small business advice of a legal nature to share some facts about me that you (and likely many of my friends and colleagues) may not know. Here are 10 facts about me that may surprise you:
I hate eggplant.
I’ll eat (and even cook) pretty much anything. But eggplant is perhaps the one and only thing on my list of “no freaking way am I going to eat that!” If you’re cooking up eggplant parm for dinner, kindly leave me off the guest list! For other, more palatable ideas, check out my food blog.
I am strictly anti-Diet Coke.
That stuff is the sweat of evil demons that have come to steal your soul (or at least your health, well-being and vitality), with an addictive, flowing nectar made from nasty, noxious chemicals. Diet Coke = Bubble Trouble. Please do your research and kick the can if you haven’t already. As of the date of this post, I’m officially nearly 2 months clean of my dirty habit drinking diet soda. I now have a loving relationship with my soda stream and bubbly water. Here’s to better health!
My favorite food is adventurous gastro-pub type food – I’ll try anything, even if it seems weird!
I make what could possibly be the best risotto ever.
You know that show with the angry red-faced guy, Gordon Ramsey of Hell’s Kitchen? Well I’ve watched him go postal on many a contestant over the shoddy excuses for risotto that they’ve turned out in the studio kitchen. I believe, without a doubt, that I could singlehandedly bring a smile to that dude’s face with my utterly exceptional risotto. Yes, it’s that good. And here is the master himself…
I applied for the television show The Amazing Race 2 years ago, along with my best friend.
Needless to say I didn’t end up traveling the world for a bunch of money and notoriety, but I love my jobs, my family, and my life working and living around beautiful Daytona Beach, FL. Gotta love the Sunshine State.
I used to have my CDL and drove an 18 Wheeler cross country with my husband when I first got married [AFTER I graduated from Law School].
When David & I first got married we moved –jobless– to New Mexico. An opportunity came up to go to Green Bay WI and be trained to drive tractor trailers. So, young & dumb [but not without higher degrees] we headed off. It was an adventure. No regrets but after driving all over the US we happily retired and settled into our careers.
I like all types of music – even Eminem!
I was a rocker in my younger years. I’m blessed with very responsible, mature kids – and I’m not saying that I wasn’t because I was in my own “Heidi” way; however, I rocked out on the regular to some good old classic rock when I was in my teens and twenties. Now, I’m into all kinds of music, from top 20 hits to throwbacks from the old-school days. Not to be that guy (or, gal, should I say) with the clichés, but I have very “eclectic” taste.
I believe drinking White Zin is a cardinal sin (it’s almost worse than Diet Coke)!
No offense to the White Zin drinkers out there, but: we probably won’t be bonding over a glass of Arbor Mist anytime soon…
I make a mean Mojito – and I have over 20 recipes for them.
I never buy premixed drinks (unless it’s a certain infused simple syrup) – when someone wants a Mojito at Chez Webb, I take a trip to the herb garden, get down and dirty with my muddler and a short lifetime later I offer my friends or guests the best dang Mojito their taste buds have ever had the pleasure of basking in. I do make my own drink mix (yes, I have a lot of ventures, or “passions” should I say) – you can check it out at notsosimplesyrup.net.
My favorite drink at the moment is a Not So Simple Aperol Spritz.
I like to relax with a pristine craft cocktail. I’ve made so many mojitos for people, that I’m kind of spent on that for now. However, at the moment my favorite treat is Aperol, an Italian aperitif mixed together with orange Not So Simple Syrup & Brut Champagne. Cheers!
Thanks so much for reading. I’m sure you’re beyond enthralled and fascinated with my personal “fact list,” lol – and now’s your chance to print it out, gold-leaf it, bedazzle and frame it, and keep it forever. Stay tuned for more posts of a more legal nature: I try to make estate planning and small business law as exciting as I can, and I think I do a pretty decent job (if I do say so myself). Here’s to being proud and accepting of who we are and who we used to be – unless of course we’re involving Diet Coke or White Zin in the mix, then you should be ashamed of yourself and banished to a dark corner somewhere!
Follow Daytona Beach Attorney Heidi Webb on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+ to keep up with her entertaining posts about legal news and advice on the topics of elder law, estate planning, and small business law. Oh, and there might be a quirky blog in there once in a while too.
About Heidi S. Webb, Attorney at Law: Heidi is an estate planning and small business lawyer located in the Daytona Beach area. She assists clients in Daytona, Ormond, Port Orange, and surrounding areas with a variety of matters, including wills and trusts, probate, Medicaid planning, the purchase or sale of businesses and corporations, help with contracts, and more.