There sure are some strange Wills out there! While most people will benefit their spouses or children, some can get quite creative when deciding what happens to their estate when they pass away. Here are a few examples of some strange Wills that have been drafted throughout the years.
1. Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her dog. After family contested her Will, a judge changed that number to $2 million. Still a nice pay day for a pooch! This is the most well-known instance of pets inheriting, but Ms. Helmsley is not the only person to have done so. Eleanor Ritchey left $14M to her 150 stray dogs, and rumour has it that Oprah Winfrey may have similar plans!
2. Charles Millar was the cause of what is now known as the “Stork Derby”. He was a Toronto lawyer (of course he was a lawyer!) who bequeathed his estate to the woman in Toronto who birthed the most children between the date of his death and the 10-year anniversary of his death (which ended up being between 1926 and 1936). Four women ended up sharing the grand prize and getting over $100,000 each. A significant sum of money for the era, and probably very welcome considering they all had 9 kids within a 10-year span.
3. Cecil Harris sadly died tragically in 1948 in Saskatchewan when he got pinned under his tractor, alone in the fields of his farm. He used a pocket knife to scratch the tractor’s fender, indicating that his estate should all go to his wife. He was found after being trapped for an estimated 10 hours but died in the hospital shortly after being freed. The next day the Will was discovered and deemed to be a valid holograph Will by the courts. The relevant portion of the fender was cut off and put on display under glass in the University of Saskatchewan’s law library.
4. Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara was a reclusive man living in Lisbon. He had no family or friends he wished to leave his estate to, so prior to his death he picked 70 people at random out of a phone directory in front of witnesses at a registry’s office. They were to be contacted only after his death about the bequest. Imagine getting that call out of the blue!
5. Annie Langabeer apparently didn’t like her brother. In her Will she left 2 shillings and sixpence to enable him to purchase a rope – the presumption being that he hang himself. Ouch!
6. Thomas Shewbridge was a rancher who owned shares in a local electric company. In his Will, he gifted his shareholder rights to his two dogs. This made them part owner of the electric company. Apparently no one had any concerns over the K-9’s, as they frequented board of director and shareholder meetings.
In your will, you can also specify your requests regarding burial and cremation (though these requests aren’t necessarily legally binding on your executor). There are some notable odd requests for what people want to happen to their body after they die.
1. Gene Roddenberry had his ashes scattered in space. When his wife died, years later she too decided to blast off and join him.
2. Sandra West also had an odd burial request. As a wealthy socialist, she requested to be buried reclining in her baby-blue Ferrari and dressed in her favourite lace nightgown. After some debate, this strange request was allowed and remains a point of some talk in San Antonio, where the burial happened.
3. Mark Gruenwald had his ashes mixed into the ink to print “Squadron Supreme” by Marvel Comics.
4. Ed Headrick invented the Frisbee and had his ashes moulded into limited edition Frisbees.
These are all great for a laugh, but sticking with a more “standard” Will is less likely to be disputed.
People who are financially dependant may have some rights when it comes to distributing an estate, regardless of what is written in a Will, and getting too creative may lead some disappointed relatives into questioning the mental capacity of the testator.
Give us a call at 403-981-0700 if you have any questions about Wills!
Article by Erin Barvir
Although we are a law firm, this blog post does not constitute legal advice. It is for informational or entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as financial or legal advice of any kind. You should consult with a lawyer before relying on any of the information contained in this blog post. We can be contacted at (403) 981 0700 to set up a consultation with one of our lawyers who can review the specific circumstances of your matter and provide you with personalised legal advice.