The strangest and most surprising wills and inheritances
We can’t quite plan for what we’ll do after death, but at least we can make plans for our stuff. While writing your will can be a bit of a morbid task, these oddballs found a way to spice up their last will and testament. Strange inheritances, unique burials, and unusual stipulations give your will a little bit of much-needed pizzazz. Whether they’re leaving their fortune to a beloved pet or leaving everything to their country, these will writers found a way to liven up an otherwise dreary chore. Read on to discover some of the weirdest and most surprising wills and inheritances ever.
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.