Writing your Last Will & Testament can be a daunting endeavour. So it’s no surprise that less than half of UK adults have drawn up formal instructions upon their deaths. It is easier than ever to organise your Will here in the UAE – and with the new DIFC Wills & Probate Office up and running, it doesn’t need to be a drama. No foreign languages or laws for Brits – just ask your IFA.
But sometimes Last Will & Testaments are all about drama! Here Holborn Assets reviews ten outrageous Wills from history that have confounded, dumbfounded, and infuriated their beneficiaries!
Hell hath no fury
From bards to wealthy businessmen, the chance to snub from beyond the grave proved too irresistible for some long-suffering husbands …
- Shakespeare famously left his unfortunate wife Anne Hathaway his “second-best bed.” The majority of his estate was bequeathed to his loving daughter Susanna.
- Samuel Bratt, a wealthy American industrialist, loved to partake of a fine cigar; an earthly pleasure denied by his wife who loathed the stinking habit. In vengeful fashion, his 1960 Will stated that his wife be ordered to “smoke 5 cigars a day” to receive her substantial inheritance from him!
- German poet Heinrich Heine had one last dig at his wife following his death in 1856. He left her his estate on the stipulation that she remarry in order that “there will be at least one man to regret my death.”
Romance never dies
From revenge to romantic flourishes …
- US comedian Jack Benny wrote that upon his death his wife was to receive a single red rose every day for the rest of her life. In total, 2000 roses reminded her of his enduring love.
- Adoring husband and aspiring poet Isaac Cooke wrote his entire will in lyrical rhyming couplets. He wrote, “To Alice Cooke my loving wife, For her to keep or use, Without reserve throughout her life, However she may choose/ My body also shall be hers, I definitely state, with which to do as she prefers, to bury or cremate.”
The absurd and the macabre
From the peculiarities of marital life (and death) to the truly outrageous last wishes of the rich and insane …
American billionaire Leona Helmsley left the majority of her $8 billion fortune to a charitable trust for dogs, and a $12 million chunk to her favourite Maltese, Trouble. Trouble indeed for two of her grandchildren who were left with nothing at all.
- While it is sensible to specify what happens to your body upon death, hatmaker Solomon Sanborn left grisly instructions in 1871 when he bequeathed his skin to a local tanner who was instructed to make drums with it.
- Socialite Sandra West was buried in 1977 with her most prized possession – a sky blue 1963 Ferrari 250GT – in which she raced toward the afterlife in style.
- Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, marched boldly into space following his death. In 1997 some of his ashes were launched into orbit and in 2008, his wife joined him.
Keep it simple
- Others depart this world with more modest wishes and a good sense of humour, like Stephen Cuthbert from Wiltshire whose Will stated that his coffin be carried in a Cortina Estate car and his friends treated to a “p*** up” from his estate after his funeral.