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Getting Creative with Bequests: The good, the odd, and the angry.




Some people have chosen to get very creative or let their true feeling be known when they pass away. Below are some examples of the more notorious Will clauses that have come to light.


The good:

67 year old Roger Stone left 3,500 pounds to seven of his best friends with the stipulation that they use the funds for a weekend trip in a European city.


Keith Owen, a self-made millionaire, donated 2.3 million to his favorite vacation spot in the United kingdom with the stipulation that some of the money was to be spent on one million flowing bulbs to make the seaside colorful.


The odd:

A Portuguese man named Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da CamaraLuis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara left his estate to 70 strangers randomly chosen out of a Lisbon phone book.


Leona Helmsley (mentioned in a previous blog post) left $12 Million to her dog Trouble. Later the amount was reduced to $2 million.


In his Will Harry Houdini requested that a séance should be held each anniversary of his death.


The angry:

German poet Heinrich Heine left his entire estate to his wife, Matilda, in 1856. Matilda would only receive the estate if she remarried so that, “there will be at least one man to regret my death.”


Michigan Millionaire Wellington Burt locked his fortune away so that it would not pass on to any heirs until 21 years after the death of his last surviving grandchild. Mr. Burt died in 1919 and the countdown ended in November of 2010 with an estate of $110 million to be distributed.


Joseph Dalby in 1784 wrote in his will:

“I give to my daughter, Ann Spencer, a guinea for a ring, or any other bauble she may like better. I give to her lout the husband one penny to buy him a lark-whistle, I also give to her said husband of redoubtable memory, my ---hole for a covering to his lark-whistle, to prevent the abrasion of his lips, and this legacy I give as a mark of my approbation of his prowess and nice honour, in drawing his sword on me at my own table, naked and unarmed as I was, and he well-fortified with custard.”


In fiction:

One of my personal favorite children's books, the Westing Game, illustrates a very elaborate Will. In this book the will of Samuel Westing is structured like a puzzle, with the 16 heirs challenged to find the solution. Each of the eight pairs, assigned seemingly at random, is given $10,000 cash and a different set of baffling clues. The pair that solves the mystery will inherit Westing's entire $200 million fortune and control of his company.


While it may be fun to put in a joke, very specific condition, or release the pent up anger in your Will; it is always recommended to consult with an estate planning attorney to see if the desired clause would have long lasting unintended consequences or invalidate the entire document.

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