Famous heirs and heiresses who inherited a fortune
Being an heir or heiress can undoubtedly give you a leg up in Hollywood. You would probably be surprised to find that many of the celebrities you know and love in Hollywood inherited or received a large sum of money to help them get started.
Although you’re already aware of some of these heirs and heiresses, there are other celebrities who have managed to remain pretty low-key about their inherited riches. Unlike many other celebs in the `biz, these aren’t rags to riches stories. These are riches that led to even more riches stories!
Estimated net worth: $300 million
Wealth inherited from: Hilton Hotels Corporation
You know her, you love her (or you don’t, but you still know her). Regardless, this famous heiress hardly needs an introduction.
Not only is Hilton one of the world’s most familiar heiresses, but she is also one of Hollywood’s biggest it-girls and celebrities. Born in New York City, Paris Hilton is an heiress to the Hilton Hotel fortune (which you probably already knew).
Of course, don’t underestimate her because she isn’t just an heiress. Hilton is also a businesswoman who has created her own empire of merchandise over the past few years. She has several perfume lines under her belt and she has opened quite a few Paris Hilton Stores to house her creations.
Think that’s all? She also opened a Paris Hilton Beach Club Resort in the Philippines which attracts thousands of vacationers every year.
Estimated net worth: $20 million
Wealth inherited from: Andrew Cockburn
As a child, she hung out with the likes of Mick Jagger and Salman Rushdie, and when Olivia Wilde grew up, she became one of the most well-liked actresses in the biz. Wilde, who originally wanted to be a doctor, began her acting career when she landed a part on the 2001 drama The OC. She then landed the role of Dr. Remy ‘Thirteen’ Hadley in the TV medical drama, House.
Although she’s had an extensive television career, she is most recognized for her roles in Conversations with Other Women, Tron: Legacy, Butter, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The Lazarus Effect, and Rush.
Now, that’s all fine and dandy, but what you probably don’t know about Wilde is that she inherited a fortune from journalist and editor of Harper’s Magazine, Andrew Cockburn. When your dad is an editor for a magazine as big as Harper’s, you receive access to some pretty big opportunities.
When she was 13, she got to meet Steven Spielberg, who told her, “Olivia, if you want to be a doctor look before you leap; if you want to be in show business, leap before you look.” At least Wilde got to play a doctor on television, so, best of both worlds, right?
Estimated net worth: $80 million
Wealth inherited from: Goldie Hawn
Yes, this Oscar-nominated actress is the daughter of Hollywood legend, Goldie Hawn. (You can see the resemblance now, right?)
Hudson rose to fame with her breakthrough role as groupie girl, Penny Lane, in the 2000 film Almost Famous. She won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for the role and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
In 2013, Hudson partnered up with online retail business JustFab and launched her own line of workout clothing called, Fabletics. Hudson joked during an interview in 2018 that, “I work more on Fabletics now than I do on movies.” In 2018, it was announced that Hudson was partnering with New York & Company, Inc. for a multi-year deal.
In 2016, Hudson released her first book, Pretty Happy: Healthy Ways To Love Your Body. A year later, she released her second book, Pretty Fun: Creating and Celebrating a Lifetime of Tradition.
As you can see, Hudson may be an heiress, but she sure took that title and squashed it by creating her own empire with her many different business ventures.
Estimated net worth: $14 million
Wealth inherited from: Don Johnson
You probably recognize Dakota Johnson from the (slightly cringy) Fifty Shades franchise, which may have overshadowed her heiress status.
Johnson is the daughter of actor, producer, director, and singer, Don Johnson and actress and producer, Melanie Griffith.
As a child, Johnson would spend a lot of time on various film sets, due to her parents’ line of work. Johnson began her career in the entertainment world in 2006, when she signed with IMG Models. Although Acting was her primary focus, she modeled for MANGO brand’s jeans line in 2009, and she shot the “Rising Star” campaign for Australian fashion label Wish.
Riding on the success of her Fifty Shades buzz, Johnson appeared in Black Mass, A Bigger Splash, Suspiria, Bad Times at the El Royale, and How to Be Single.
Estimated net worth: $200 million
Fortune inherited from: Cornelius Vanderbilt
Look, Cooper isn’t just journalism royalty. It turns out he’s American royalty, too.
Do the Vanderbilts ring a bell?
In case you need a refresher, the Vanderbilts were once the wealthiest family in America. Cornelius Vanderbilt, in particular, was the wealthiest person in America up until his death in 1877. Vanderbilt, who was America’s biggest shipping and railroad tycoon was Cooper’s great-great-great-grandfather.
You thought Cooper was simply a humble journalist? He may give off that impression, but he is probably one of the biggest heirs on this list.
Cooper spent most of his life in the spotlight, so it’s not really surprising he ended up where he did. As a baby, he was photographed by Diane Arbus for Harper’s Bazaar, and at the age of three, he was a guest on The Tonight Show with his mother.
Anderson Cooper is quite a significant figure on television and has broken barriers across all platforms with his investigative journalism and 60 Minutes specials. The New York Times has noted that he is “the most prominent openly gay journalist on American television.”
Estimated net worth: $200 million
Wealth inherited from: Getty Oil
Balthazar Getty is the heir to the Getty Oil fortune, and the great-grandson of J. Paul Getty. The Daily Mail reported that Getty has admitted, “I don’t see it anymore as something I have to run from or prove to people that I’m not who they might perceive me to be. I’ve been able to own that and feel good about it.”
While embracing the heir lifestyle, he is also an actor and musician. He is a member of the band Ringside, producer of rap duo The Wow, and he had roles in Lord of the Flies, Charmed, Alias, and Brother & Sisters.
In 2010, Getty married fashion designer, Rosetta Millington, and they have four children together: Grace, Violet, June Catherine, and Cassius Paul.
Getty found himself in the middle of a dilemma in 2008, when he had a very public fling with British beauty, Sienna Miller. The relationship wasn’t meant to last and only led to his reunion with his wife two years later.
Estimated net worth: $100 million
Wealth inherited from: Hearst Corporation
Amanda Hearst is an heiress, socialite, and model. Born in New York, Hearst is the heiress to the Hearst Corporation, (yes, as in THE William Randolph Hearst).
She attended Fordham University, and she works as the associate marketing editor at women’s magazine, Marie Claire. She was previously signed to IMG Models, and she has been featured in Town & Country, International Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, and Vanity Fair.
Although Hearst is an heiress, she has been involved in multiple charities. She founded Friends of Finn, which is an organization dedicated to stopping the inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills.
Estimated net worth: $25 million
Wealth inherited from: Frank Shields
The former child model and actress has been in the movie and fashion industry since the ’60s.
She caused quite a stir at age 12, when she played a controversial role in her 1978 film, Pretty Baby, but has had a thriving career since. She appeared in The Blue Lagoon and Endless Love, which became famous ’80s cult films.
Her father, Francis Alexander Shields, Jr., was an American businessman who began his career on Wall Street working for Loeb Rhoades. He soon moved into sales and marketing for Revlon, Estee Lauder, and recruiting firm Handy Associates. In 1989, he and his family moved to Palm Beach, Florida, where he created his own real estate firm, Frank Shields Associates.
Estimated net worth: $20 million
Wealth inherited from: Carrie Fisher
When your mom is Princess Leia, you certainly have a lot of expectations to live up to. Luckily, Lourd has not disappointed thus far. The young actress is the daughter of Hollywood icon Carrie Fisher, and Bryan Lourd, one of the biggest talent agents in Hollywood.
Lourd doesn’t have just ONE Hollywood legend in her bloodline. She is also the granddaughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher.
Although Lourd is the heiress to Fisher’s estate and fortune, she is determined to further her acting career. Her most notable roles include Lieutenant Connix in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Chanel #3 in the Fox horror-comedy series, Scream Queens.
Estimated net worth: $50 million
Wealth inherited from: Ralph Lauren
Dylan Lauren is the heiress of famous American designer Ralph Lauren, who has been at the top of the fashion trends since 1992. Ralph Lauren named his first full line of menswear ‘Polo’ in 1968 and the name has since become the preferred name for that style of collared men’s shirts.
To this day, the Polo player emblem has become one of the most recognizable figures in the fashion world. The Ralph Lauren Corporation is a global multibillion-dollar enterprise, and in 2018, Forbes reported that Ralph Lauren was 91st richest person in America.
It seems that Dylan Lauren has followed in dear old dad’s footsteps, seeing as she has become quite the entrepreneur. She is the owner of New York City’s Dylan’s Candy Bar, which claims to be the “largest candy store in the world.” Dylan was inspired to create the candy store after seeing Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on her sixth birthday. In 2017, she starred as a judge on the first season of ABC reality series, The Toy Box.
Estimated net worth: $40 million
Wealth inherited from: Hilton Hotels
She may be lesser-known than her sister, but Nicky Hilton is just as business savvy. The second of four children, Hilton is a fashion designer, model, and heiress.
In 2004, Hilton launched her own clothing line and designed a line of handbags for Japanese company, Samantha Thavasa. In 2007, she launched her second fashion line, Nicholai, which was featured during the Spring/Summer 2008 season of New York City’s Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week. In 2010, she launched a jewelry line which averaged at $200 per piece, and in 2015, she launched a handbag line with Linea Pelle.
She published her first book in 2014 titled, 365 Style, which Hilton claims, “offers a simple method that helps girls identify the staple pieces that work best for their lifestyle, encourages them to stay true to their own tastes.”
Over the course of her career, she has supported many charitable organizations such as the Starlight Children’s Foundation, Make-a-wish foundation, Race to Erase MS, and Union Rescue Mission.
Estimated net worth: $2.8 Billion
Wealth inherited from: Standard Oil
Ariana Rockefeller is the heiress to Standard Oil, and she is also a part of one of America’s most significant dynasties: the Rockefeller family. She is the great-great-granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller (so, yeah, she’s pretty stinkin’ rich). But don’t assume that she just revels in her riches all day.
She has served on the board of the nonprofit David Rockefeller Fund and supports the Humane Society of the United States. She has also chaired the New York Botanical Garden’s Winter Ball for several years.
She began riding horses at the age of three and joined the equestrian team in high school. After a small break, she returned to the sport and started show jumping in 2012. In 2015, she placed fourth in the Hampton Classic.
She has also taken an interest in fashion and launched her own line in 2011. In 2014, she opened a pop-up shop in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.
Estimated net worth: $100 million
Wealth inherited from: William Randolph Hearst
Lydia Marie Hearst-Shaw Hardwick (try saying that 5x fast) is the great-granddaughter of big-time newspaper publisher and politician, William Randolph Hearst.
She is also the daughter of Patty Hearst, who has quite an intriguing story. Shaw’s mother became internationally known following her kidnapping in 1974 by American terrorist group, the Symbionese Liberation Army. The kidnapping was intended to leverage the Hearst family’s political influence to liberate two SLA members who had been arrested.
Despite her dark family history, Lydia Hearst-Shaw grew up to be a successful fashion model, actress, and lifestyle blogger. In 2008, she was recognized as the Best International Supermodel at the Madrid Glamour Awards, and she has appeared in a handful of significant fashion advertisements for top fashion brands.
Estimated net worth: $16 million
Fortune inherited from: Occidental Petroleum
When you think about how much his name resembles a common household product, you may say to yourselves, “wow, I can’t believe I didn’t realize this before.” But, surprise! It’s not for Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (that’s just a coincidence).
Hammer was actually named after his grandfather, oil tycoon Armand Hammer. His company, Occidental Petroleum, became one of the largest American energy and gas corporations.
The Call Me By Your Name star’s great-grandfather faced controversy back in the day when he continued to trade with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and for his involvement with the socialist and communist movements. At the time of his death, Armand Hammer was worth approximately $800 million.
Estimated net worth: $10 million
Fortune inherited from: Lionel Richie
Lionel Richie needs no introduction. The American singer, songwriter, actor, and record producer has made waves in the music scene ever since he appeared in the ’60s with funk and soul band the Commodores. Richie is considered one of the best-selling artists of all time, selling over 90 million records worldwide.
Lionel Richie and his wife, Brenda Harvey, legally adopted Nicole when she was nine. Nicole Richie is the biological daughter of Karen Moss and Peter Michael Escovedo. Nicole Richie has confessed that her biological parents were friends with Lionel and Brenda, and since her biological parents could not afford to care for her, they allowed her to move in with them.
Nicole Richie has since gained notoriety for being a television personality, fashion designer, author, socialite, and actress. She is mostly known for causing a ruckus with famous BFF Paris Hilton. The pair starred on FOX television series The Simple Life, which lasted five seasons.
Estimated net worth: $65 million
Wealth inherited from: Richard L. Simon
The famous “You’re So Vain,” singer is the daughter of Simon & Schuster publishing house co-founder, Richard L. Simon. Carly Simon is not only a memorable 1970s singer and musician, but she is also a children’s author who has written multiple books.
Her first album, Carly Simon, received critical acclaim, and the album won Simon her first Grammy. Simon is the first to win an Oscar, Golden Globe, and Grammy for a song that was composed, written, and performed, entirely by a single artist.
Simon was formerly married to singer-songwriter James Taylor and they have two children together, Sally Taylor and Ben Taylor.
Estimated net worth: $500 thousand
Wealth inherited from: Aaron Spelling
Tori Spelling is the daughter of Candy Spelling and television and film producer, Aaron Spelling. Although her father is a pretty big deal in Hollywood, Tori Spelling has done pretty well for herself over the past few years.
Spelling is an actress, television personality, socialite, and author. Although she has appeared in a handful of films, her most notable role was as Donna Martin on Beverly Hills, 90210, which was co-produced by her father (a reboot of the series is scheduled to quick off later this year). In 2009, her autobiography, sTori Telling, reached the top of the New York Times Best Seller list.
Unfortunately, it seems that Spelling’s spending habits raised red flags with her mother, with whom she has a rocky relationship. She told The New York Times that Tori “would close a store and drop $50,000 to $60,000.” In 2006, her father’s passing made headlines due to his surprising will. Though Spelling was worth around $500 million, Tori and her brother Randy each received only $800,000. After some poor real estate decisions, a canceled reality show, and a ten-week hospital stay, Tori Spelling announced in 2013 that she was bankrupt.
Estimated net worth: $900 million
Fortune inherited from: Donatella Versace
Versace is a prominent luxury brand founded by Gianni Versace in 1978. The Versace logo, based off of the head of Greek mythological figure Medusa, is one of the most recognizable badges in the fashion world.
Upon Gianni Versace’s death in 1997, sister Donatella Versace inherited 20 percent of the company and became its chief executive officer.
Allegra Versace is the daughter of Donatella Versace and American ex-fashion model Paul Beck. Versace grew up surrounded by Hollywood A-listers and has hilariously admitted that Sir Elton John once gave her a piano, which she never learned how to play.
On her 18th birthday, she received 50 percent ownership of Gianni Versace S.p.A. However, although Allegra Versace received this vast fortune, she decided to focus on her studies and did not begin to dabble in Versace’s business until she turned 24.
Estimated net worth: $80 million
Fortune inherited from: James Rouse
The Fight Club actor actually stumbled into quite a significant sum of money before becoming a big star. His grandfather, James Rouse, was a well-known urban planner, real estate developer, civic activist, and philanthropist.
In 1985, Rouse built the Harundale Mall in Maryland, and his company used the word “mall” to describe the building, which popularized the word. Rouse’s purpose in creating the “mall” was to use them as a town center for suburban communities. In 1995, Rouse received a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Norton has spoken publicly about his grandfather’s many awards and contributions while being an active environmental advocate and social entrepreneur. He serves as president of the American branch of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust and is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.
Estimated net worth: $200 million
Fortune inherited from: Gerard (William) Louis-Dreyfus
You’re likely familiar with this funny lady, but you probably didn’t know that she has quite a fortune thanks to her dad, Gerard Louis-Dreyfus.
Louis-Dreyfus, known to his family as William, was a French-born American businessman who sat as the chairman of Louis Dreyfus Energy Services. In 2006, Forbes estimated William Louis-Dreyfus’s net worth to be $3.4 billion.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus hit the ground running in the ’80s when she appeared on Saturday Night Live and then Seinfeld. Other than an actress, Louis-Dreyfus is a producer, philanthropist, wife, and mother.
Father’s estimated net worth: $400 million
Wealth inherited from: Tommy Hilfiger
Ally Hilfiger is the heiress to the Tommy Hilfiger fortune. The company was founded by Hilfiger’s father in 1985, and it is sold in over 1,400 free-standing retail stores in 90 countries.
Tommy Hilfiger became a prominent brand during the 1990s, joining the ranks alongside Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Nautica, DKNY, and Donna Karan.
In 1980, Hilfiger married Susan Cirona and the pair have four children together. In 2003, Ally Hilfiger joined MTV reality series Rich Girls, which aired for a single season. The show followed Ally Hilfiger and best friend Jaime Gleicher as they finish high school and spend their summer together.
These days, Hilfiger is a television producer and author. One of her most popular novels is titled, Bite Me: How Lyme Disease Stole My Childhood, which discusses her traumatic childhood experience with the disease.
Estimated net worth: $50 million
Fortune inherited from: Arthur Spiegel
Everything you know about Spike Jonze has been a lie. Well, only his name. Spike Jonze was born Adam Spiegel, as in the marketing and catalog company, Spiegel. His father, Arthur Spiegel, was the descendant of the founder of the mail-order catalog, which has since been sold (probably a good thing).
Although the award-winning filmmaker is still associated with the billion-dollar fortune, Jonze has made a name for himself in other venues. He is a famous photographer and actor, and he is known for music videos, commercials, film and television. Notable films include Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are and Her.
Giada De Laurentiis
Estimated net worth: $20 million
Fortune inherited from: Veronica De Laurentiis
Giada De Laurentiis is the oldest daughter of famous Italian actress and author, Veronica De Laurentiis, and actor-producer Alex De Benedetti.
At the age of 18, Veronica De Laurentiis was cast in the film Waterloo, starring Rod Steiger and Christopher Plummer. Her memoir, Rivoglio La Mia Vita (Claim My Life) was on the Italian bestseller list within a week of its debut. She is also the founder of the Associazione Veronica De Laurentiis, a foundation to stop domestic violence.
Despite her mother’s success, Giada has begrudgingly made a home for herself on the Food network as a professional chef. Although De Laurentiis was the face of her show, Everyday Italian, she admitted that she never really wanted to be involved in the “family business” of show business.
Estimated net worth: $75 million
Fortune inherited from: Paul McCartney
When your dad is a former Beatle and music legend, you’re probably set for the rest of your life. However, it looks like McCartney has taken her life into her own hands, as she has become quite a force in the fashion world.
Like both her parents, McCartney is a big supporter of animal rights, and she does not use any leather or fur in her designs. McCartney designed her first jacket at the age of thirteen and has been involved in the fashion world ever since. She has launched several lines over the past decade and has collaborated with notable fashion brands such as Adidas.
In 2018, Stella McCartney launched the Stella McCartney Cares Foundation, which is a charity dedicated primarily to breast cancer.
Estimated net worth: $100 million
Fortune inherited from: Michael Jackson
Paris Jackson is the second child of pop legend Michael Jackson. When Michael Jackson passed in 2009, his will stated that all current and future financial interests be placed in the Michael Jackson Family Trust, with 20 percent distributed to charity.
The remainder of the funds were split between his mother and three children. Although Jackson was around $500 million in debt at the time of his death, it was estimated by TMZ that his estate grossed almost $2 billion by 2015.
Though Paris Jackson has had a tumultuous personal life, she has prospered in her modeling career. In 2017, she graced the cover of Rolling Stone and signed a modeling contract with IMG Models. In 2018, she made her feature film debut in Gringo.
Frances Bean Cobain
Estimated net worth: $200 million
Fortune inherited from: Kurt Cobain
When grunge king Kurt Cobain of Nirvana fame passed away back in 1994, fans everywhere collectively held their breath. To this day, Cobain is remembered as one of the most influential icons in alternative music. In 2003, David Fricke from music magazine Rolling Stone ranked him as the 12th greatest guitarist of all time.
Frances Bean Cobain has quite a famous family tree. She is the daughter of Kurt Cobain and Hole singer, Courtney Love. Cobain’s godparents are actress Drew Barrymore and R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe.
Upon his passing, he left a considerable inheritance behind for his daughter. In 2009, a judge issued a temporary restraining order to keep Love from Cobain, who inherited a third of her father’s estate a year later. On her 18th birthday, she took control of her trust fund. It is estimated by E! News that Cobain receives $95,000 a month from her father’s publicity rights and around $6,800 in dividends.
Other than her inheritance, Cobain makes money modeling. In 2006, she was photographed for Elle magazine, and in 2008, she appeared in Harper’s Bazaar.
Estimated net worth: $140 million
Wealth inherited from: Karsten Olaf Johansson and Melanie Sloan
Scarlett Johansson has earned her celebrity status through her immense talent and incredible resume.
Johansson has been mentioned multiple times in the Forbes Celebrity 100, and she is one of the highest paid actresses in the biz. She has appeared in big-time blockbusters such as The Avengers franchise, Her, Lucy, and Ghost in the Shell.
Although her skills are undeniable, it probably helped that her father, Karsten Olaf Johansson, was a prominent Danish architect, and her mother, Melanie Sloan, was a film producer.
Although Johansson may have had some assistance at first, it is her talent that has kept her on top all of these years.
Estimated net worth: $65 million
Wealth inherited from: Stephen Gyllenhaal
You’re probably familiar with this actor, but you’re probably unaware of his famous family tree. Jake Gyllenhaal and his famous sister, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, are the children of Hollywood director, Stephen Gyllenhaal, and screenwriter, Naomi Foner.
Stephen Gyllenhaal directed Family of Spies, Waterland, and Paris Trout, but has since focused on directing television shows. He directed an episode of ABC television series Twin Peaks and CBS series Numb3rs, Hawthorne, Army Wives, and Blue Bloods.
Jake Gyllenhaal has a plethora of films to show for his talent, starting with his first film, Donnie Darko. He received critical acclaim and A-list status for his role in Brokeback Mountain, which won four Golden Globe Awards, four BAFTA Awards, and three Academy Awards.
Estimated net worth: $100 thousand to $1 million
Fortune inherited from: Giorgio Armani
Roberta Armani is the daughter of Giorgio Armani’s oldest brother Sergio. When building Armani, Giorgio relied heavily on his family. His brother Sergio, was a manager of a Coin department store who gave him business advice. His sister Rosanna, a model, worked in Armani’s PR Department.
Since Sergio and Giorgio passed, the brand has fallen into the hands of the younger generation. Rosanna’s son Andrea works on the commercial side of the business and Sergio’s daughters, Silvana and Roberta, are full-time employees at Armani. Roberta has admitted that her role as head of VIP PR is her “dream job.”
Bobbi Kristina Brown
Estimated net worth: $20 million
Fortune inherited from: Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston’s death took a toll on the entertainment industry. On Feb. 11, 2012, Whitney Houston accidentally drowned in the bath of her hotel room while staying at The Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles.
Her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, who was 19 at the time, inherited her mother’s entire estate estimated by TMZ to be worth $20 million.
Unfortunately, three years later, Bobbi Kristina Brown was found unresponsive in her bathtub at home and died after six months in a coma. PEOPLE magazine reported that the remainder of the inheritance was split between Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, and Whitney’s two brothers.
Estimated net worth: $50 million
Fortune inherited from: The Crane Company
Chevy Chase, otherwise known as Cornelius Crane “Chevy” Chase is a famous American comedian, actor, and writer. His mother, Cathalene Parker, was a concert pianist and librettist (someone that writes the text of an opera). She was adopted as a child by her stepfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane, heir to The Crane Company.
Chase landed a recurring segment on Saturday Night Live called the Weekend Update, which put him on the map. He’s since played many legendary roles over the years in movies like Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation and Three Amigos. His most recent role was playing Pierce Hawthorne on the NBC series Community from 2009 to 2014.
NEXT: The Strangest and Most Surprising Wills and Inheritances
1. Paying Mother England’s debts
One anonymous British man decided he’d had enough with his country’s debt, and he used his will to take matters into his own hands. He left a nice chunk of money to England in 1928 with instructions that it must be used to pay the country’s entire national debt. The fund started at £500,000 and thanks to the magic of compound interest, it’s grown to £350 million.
Unfortunately for the deceased, that’s still not nearly enough to pay the country’s debt, which stood at £1.786 trillion as of 2017. Barclays, the firm managing the fund, has applied for permission to give it away, but for now, unless the national debt goes down the money will stay in limbo.
NEXT: Talk about a lucky dog!
2. One pampered pooch
This tiny Maltese is set to inherit a big fortune. Bella Mia is the lucky dog in question, and her owner recently rewrote her will to make sure the little pupper would still enjoy her same standard of living. Bella Mia will inherit a million dollar fortune including a vacation home, jewelry, and a trust fund.
Just so you know, Bella Mia does work hard for the money. In addition to being extremely cute, she makes the rounds as a therapy dog. Her owner says, “I went into the Ronald McDonald House with her in her Cinderella outfit and I could see a girl who had tears in her eyes…she started smiling and totally forgot about being sick.”
NEXT: Some people inherit houses, but these siblings wound up with a whole town.
3. They own this town
No, this isn’t an ad for Schitt’s Creek. These siblings actually inherited a whole town when their father passed away. David Stawovy’s father bought the small Pennsylvania village of Reduction in 1948, and at the time it was an old, abandoned company town.
These days, the town has about 60 residents enjoying the quiet, small-town life Reduction has to offer. However, the siblings aren’t sure they want to keep playing landlord to an entire town, and are looking into their options for selling it. The heirs are asking $1.5 million for their town, and sadly it’s likely that a buyer would demolish it to build a new development.
NEXT: He inherited 100 year old Levi’s that still look good as new.
4. Nice jeans
Arizona man Jock Taylor uncovered an incredible and unexpected inheritance: a pair of brand new, 124 year old Levi’s. Taylor’s great grandfather owned a general store in the frontier days, and after he passed away some of his belongings were put in a cedar chest and passed down through the family. When Taylor opened the chest and found the jeans, he couldn’t believe the great condition they were in.
The size of the jeans is also quite surprising. They have a 44 inch waist and a 37 inch inseam to fit Taylor’s 6’6” great grandfather. Levi’s have offered to purchase the jeans for $50,000.
NEXT: This wealthy lady used her will as a weapon.
5. She got the last word
Lady Valmai Roche went to her grave carrying a grudge against her daughters, and she used her will to lash out against them. Despite leaving a $3.5 million estate behind, she left each of her daughters just “30 pieces of silver of the lowest denomination of currency.” She also stipulated that they would have to read her diaries and score well on a quiz about her to get any of her jewelry.
Apparently, Roche felt her daughters had conspired in her mother’s death, so she wanted to punish them. The daughters pleaded their case in court and ultimately gained control of the estate.
NEXT: This janitor lived a simple life, and his will surprised everyone.
6. Good will hunting
Ronald Read was a Vermont man who worked as a janitor and gas station attendant. He was always frugal, driving older used cars and chopping his own firewood. So when Read passed away, the $8 million estate he had amassed stunned his community. Even more astonishing, Read left $6 million to Vermont’s Brooks Memorial Library and Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.
According to The Motley Fool, Read built up his fortune by living well within his means and saving up for a very long time. They posit that if you invested $6,300 a year for 50 years, you could end up with $8 million to call your own.
NEXT: This aristocrat picked heirs at random for his incredible fortune.
7. Reading the phone book
When Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral de Camara wrote his last will and testament, he used an unusual method of selecting his heirs. Instead of leaving his wealth to close family members and friends, the lonely aristocrat picked names at random out of the phonebook.
The Portuguese man picked 70 names out of the Lisbon phonebook in the 1980s and left each of them a portion of his estate. According to reports in The Guardian, each of his heirs received an unexpected bounty of several thousand euros. Makes us wish we had lived in Lisbon back then, or at least had our names in the phonebook.
NEXT: This man left behind a trust to create a bizarre, sexist establishment.
8. No girls allowed
Iowa lawyer T.M. Zink passed away in 1930, but he left a $50,000 trust to build his dream library. He ordered that the money be held for 75 years, then used to build a woman-free, males only library. Zink left specific instructions that no women could be admitted to enter the library at any time.
Also, the library also would not contain books or works of art created by women. Zink’s descendants were able to successfully challenge his misogynistic plan, and the T.M. Zink woman-free library was never built. We’re guessing Zink wasn’t a fan of Jane Austen?
NEXT: Shakespeare’s will isn’t exactly what it seems.
9. To will or not to will
For years, scholars have considered William Shakespeare’s will to contain a parting shot at his wife Anne Hathaway. Shakespeare famously left his widow nothing but his second-best bed. Recent scholarship suggests, however, that in 16th century terms this was actually a loving act.
Scientists at the National Archives and British Library used new technology to study the ink and paper of Shakespeare’s will and were able to determine when additions were written. Apparently, the bard added Anne to his will quite late, anxious to be sure she would be provided for. As Anne could not inherit the house, the second best bed was the best piece of property she was eligible to get.
NEXT: This controlling dad is still laying down the law from beyond the grave.
10. Father knows best
Real estate millionaire Maurice Laboz isn’t about to let death stop him from keeping his daughters in line. When he died in 2015, he left them each $10 million in a trust that they could only receive once they turned 35. The daughters do have the option to get early bonuses from the trust as long as they follow daddy’s rules.
Laboz requires that his daughters graduate from accredited universities, don’t have children out of wedlock, and marry good men who promise not to touch the inheritance. Estate lawyers say it’s actually very common for wealthy clients to use their cash to control family members from the afterlife.
NEXT: This man’s friends left him an incredible collection of priceless artifacts.
11. Ancient arrowheads
In North Carolina, Moon and Irene Mullins spent half a century collecting Native American arrowheads. At one point, legendary Hollywood western star John Wayne even tried to buy the collection from them, but they turned him down. When the pair passed away, they decided to leave the arrowheads to their caretaker Jerry Williams.
Native American historian and Pascua Yaqui tribe member Joe Candillo says, “The Mullins Collection surpasses anything I’ve seen in private hands. It’s breathtaking. You’re just overtaken by the number of arrowheads.” Williams is keeping the collection together and displaying them in a roadside museum.
NEXT: This romantic gesture has us tearing up.
12. Roses every day
Comedian Jack Benny’s will proves that some loves will never die. When Benny passed away in 1974, he left instructions in his will for a florist to send his widow a single red rose every day. Benny was a popular radio host from the 1930s to the 50s, and he had a television variety show in the 50s and 60s. His wife Mary Livingstone frequently joined him on the radio.
Though being cheap was a big part of Benny’s schtick, this romantic provision shows it was all an act. Until her death in 1983, Livingstone continued to get a rose from her late husband every day. Is someone cutting onions in here?
NEXT: This man took his mates out for one last wild weekend.
13. Picking up the tab
Losing a friend can be very hard, but this British man made provisions to care for his best buddies in a very unusual way. Roger Brown died of prostate cancer in 2013, and he left £3,500 to a group of his closest friends with instructions that they spend it on a weekend of drinking and debauchery in a nearby European city.
After a weekend in Berlin, his pal Roger Bees said, “We would like to formally apologise to Roger’s two sons, Sam and Jack, for taking away some of their inheritance. We spent most of it on beer, the rest we wasted.”
NEXT: This man left his savings to his favorite vacation spot.
14. Keep the flowers blooming
Keith Owen was a Canadian investment banker who planned to retire in the small town of Sidmouth, England. Owen had visited the town frequently to see his mother, and he was an admirer of the town’s natural beauty. Unfortunately, at 69 Owen discovered he had terminal cancer and just a few weeks to live.
With time running out, Owen willed his retirement savings to a countryside conservation society in the town. Thanks to Owen’s donation, the society has planted 153,000 daffodil, snowdrop, and crocus bulbs. If you’re ever in Sidmouth and you stop to smell the flowers, say thanks to Keith Owen.
NEXT: This poet used his will to fire one last shot at his wife.
15. Poetic justice?
Heinrich Heine was a German poet in the Romantic period, but what he left his wife in his will is far from romantic. Heine left his whole estate to his wife, but with one condition. He wrote that she must remarry so that at least one man would regret his death.
Though the two had a turbulent marriage, Heine’s wife Mathilde cared for him during his long decline. Heine spent most of the last decade of his life bedridden from lead poisoning. After he passed away, Mathilde did inherit his estate, but alas we cannot confirm if her new husband did regret Heine’s passing.
NEXT: You won’t believe how long this eccentric millionaire made his heirs wait.
16. Worth the wait
Wellington Burt was a lumber tycoon in Michigan who passed away in 1919. At the time, it was expected that his great fortune would naturally pass from Burt to his children. However, for mysterious reasons of his own, Burt added a highly unusual stipulation to his will.
Burt ordered that his fortune be kept in a trust until 21 years after the last of his surviving grandchildren died. It wasn’t until 2011 that anyone could finally touch the fortune, which had grown to a total of $110 million. However, the current heirs have mixed feelings about the windfall, having grown up seeing the bitterness it caused their parents and grandparents.
NEXT: This famous magician included a very unusual stipulation in his will.
17. A real Houdini
Known for his daring escapes and high stakes illusions, Harry Houdini remains one of the most famous magicians of all time. Houdini’s will is also among the strangest. Houdini promised his wife that he would reach out to her from beyond the grave, and in his will asked her to hold a seance to contact him once a year.
Houdini gave his wife a secret password that he promised to use so she would know it was really him. Though his widow never did manage to get in touch with Houdini after death, some of his devoted fans still try to reach him every year.
NEXT: This crazy will set off a baby race.
18. The Stork Derby
Charles Vance Miller was a wealthy Toronto lawyer and dedicated prankster. After Miller passed away in 1926, his will set off one last wild prank that Miller would have loved if he could have seen it. Many of his pranks involved playing on people’s greed, and this one was no different.
In his will, Miller said that he would give $500,000 to the married Toronto woman who could give birth to the most children in the ten years following his death. Miller’s wishes set off a birthing race which came to be known as the Stork Derby. Four women who each had nine children over the course of the decade ended up splitting the prize.
NEXT: This socialite’s burial is honestly now how we want to go too.
19. Going out in style
Glamorous lady and queen of writing wills Sandra West was the wife of a wealthy Texas oil tycoon. Not content to go to the grave like the rest of us, West added some very special stipulations to her will. She asked to be buried wearing lacy lingerie in the front seat of her Ferrari with the seat reclined at a comfortable angle.
West and her Ferrari were buried together in 1977 at the Alamo Masonic Cemetery. The grave was 19 feet long, 10 feet wide, and nine feet deep to accommodate her requests. She left behind two other Ferraris and a solid gold fishing reel.
NEXT: From glamorous to gross! This next will writer’s request will turn your stomach.
20. Beat the drums
Life sure was different in 1871. When Milliner S. Sanborn died that year, he left his body to science but with some pretty gross conditions. Sanborn stipulated that two drums must be made using his skin and given to his friend. The friend must then play “Yankee Doodle” on the drums every June 17th at Bunker Hill in memory of the Revolutionary War battle.
As for the rest of his body, after it was studied he asked for it, “to be composted for a fertilizer to contribute to the growth of an American elm, to be planted in some rural thoroughfare.” Sounds like a really cool, normal guy to us!
NEXT: This famous Scottish writer left the wittiest will we’ve seen yet.
21. A birthday present
He wrote classic tales like Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so it should come as no surprise that Robert Louis Stevenson was similarly creative when it came time to write his will. In one clause in particular, Stevenson left a particularly charming instruction.
He asked that his November 13 birthday be transferred to a friend. The friend’s actual birthday fell on Christmas, and they had complained of the holiday taking away from their own festivities. As Stevenson wrote, “I have now no further use for a birthday,” so giving away the November 13 birthday was the only reasonable course of action.
NEXT: This longtime comics editor was laid to rest in his work.
22. A marvelous request
Top Marvel comics editor Mark Gruenwald was only 42 when he died of a heart attack in 1997. Gruenwald had loved his work, and he had a big hand in “The Avengers” and “Captain America” comics. So, when he passed away, his last wishes fell right in line with his amazing career in comics.
Gruenwald asked that his ashes be mixed into ink and printed in a comic book. To honor his memory, Marvel printed a special reissue of one of Gruenwald’s comics, 1985’s “Squadron Supreme” with the writer’s ashes mixed into the ink.
NEXT: Before he died, this man built a mansion for himself and his family to haunt.
23. Haunting the mansion
In the 1800s, John Bowman was the richest man in his Vermont town, but sadly his vast fortune couldn’t protect him from life’s great sorrows. In rapid succession, Bowman’s wife and children died from illness leaving him all alone. Bowman grieved heavily and soon hatched a plan for them all to be together again in the afterlife.
Bowman had an elaborate mausoleum built to house his family’s remains and constructed a mansion for the family nearby. Each night he would sit in the mausoleum reading and waiting for the day when he could join them again. Bowman also left instructions that after his death, the servants would set the table for the family to have dinner each night.
NEXT: This science fiction creator had the first burial in space.
24. The final frontier
Any Trekkie can tell you that Gene Roddenberry had an imagination that was ahead of his time. The Star Trek creator, writer, and producer also had ambitions to get out of this world after death too. Roddenberry requested that his ashes be scattered in space, boldly going where no human remains had gone before.
In 1997, an unmanned satellite was launched, and with people all over the world watching it on TV the craft scattered Roddenberry’s ashes into orbit. Another portion of the Star Trek creator’s remains had previously been taken into space on the space shuttle Columbia. He lived long and prospered, and now he’s in the stars.
NEXT: This “Son of a Preacher Man” singer was more interested in her feline friends.
It turns out sultry singer Dusty Springfield loved her cat more than just about anybody. When the chanteuse passed away in 1999, she left some very specific instructions for the care and feeding of her cuddly companion Nicholas. According to her will, Springfield’s cat must be fed a diet of imported baby food, and that’s not all.
Springfield also stipulated that her cat be serenaded with her songs after she passed away. Her cat’s bed was also to be lined with the last nightgown she wore before she died, and the cat himself was to be married to her friend’s female cat. As Dusty might sing, you don’t have to say you love me but you better love my cat.
NEXT: This found fortune will go to anyone who can take a photograph of the human soul.
26. Take a picture, it’ll last longer
Not much is known about the life of prospector James Kidd, but in death, he made quite a splash. Kidd disappeared in 1949 and was declared dead in 1956, although his remains were never found. After his death was declared, Kidd’s will was discovered in a safe deposit box alongside $270,000.
In his will, Kidd wrote that the money would go to anyone who could prove the existence of the soul with a photograph. Over 140 hopefuls filed claims to the fortune, which led to The Great Soul Trials of 1967. After 26 years in court, the money was ultimately awarded to the American Society for Psychical Research.
NEXT: This composer found a creative way to get noticed.
27. The show must go on
In life, McNair Ilgenfritz was an unsuccessful composer and pianist. After his death, however, Ilgenfritz did something that got the attention of everyone in the musical community. He left most of his $150,000 estate to the New York Metropolitan Opera Company with the stipulation that they must stage one of his operas to get the cash.
When Ilgenfritz died in 1953, the Met was hurting for money and they briefly considered putting on one of his operas. However, after much public outcry that the prestigious theater was being bought off, they ultimately declined. Ilgenfritz had previously submitted his work to the Met while he was alive but to no avail.
NEXT: We could all use a friend as loyal as this next guy.
28. A promise to a friend
What happened to Gram Parsons’ body after he died is one of the strangest, wildest stories in rock and roll history. The alt-country singer had asked his manager to burn his body in the desert if he died, and when Parsons passed away from a drug overdose a few months later, his manager Phil Kaufman did everything he could to keep his promise.
Kaufman actually stole Parsons’ body in the course of a booze-fueled road trip in a borrowed hearse. He then took Parsons’ remains out to Joshua Tree and burned them according to his friend’s wishes. Kaufman said, “All right, Gram, on your way…” and gave his friend the fiery send off he requested.
NEXT: This classic scary movie star was buried dressed as his most famous role.
29. Dracula’s coffin
Bela Lugosi was a Hungarian-American actor known for his roles in classic horror flicks. Lugosi appeared in titles like Son of Frankenstein and The Body Snatcher, but he is most famous for his portrayal of Count Dracula. Lugosi’s turn as the bloodsucking aristocrat is absolutely iconic and has inspired vampire movies ever since.
Lugosi often made appearances to greet fans while dressed as the Count, and it has long been rumored that he was buried in his actual costume from the 1931 Dracula film that launched him to stardom. However, it has since been confirmed that he was buried in his own personal Dracula costume that he wore for public appearances.
NEXT: Ready for one last weird and wacky will?
30. It’s in the mail
When 88 year old Oregonian Chet Finch passed away, he left instructions with his barber to help him carry out one last prank. Two months after his passing, Finch’s loved ones received letters and postcards from him with a return address of “Heaven.”
We love these quirky and sometimes crazy last requests, but if you’re thinking of including something unusual in your will it’s a good idea to have a talk with a lawyer. They can help you write everything up correctly and make sure that your wishes won’t be disputed. While it’s fun to think of strange things we might want done when we pass away, we hope you’ll live for a long time to come.