A person’s last will and testament is the official document that instructs the living how to divide up their earthly goods. No matter how strange someone’s will might be, the law dictates that it must be followed. A will can often be drafted in about 10 to 15 minutes, but it surely took a bit more time for these people to think up their strange conditions.
- William Shakespeare: The famous playwright left his wife, Anne Hathaway, his “second-best bed.” Shakespeare’s last will and testament state that this small and strangely specific item was to go to his wife, while the vast bulk of his estate went to his daughter Susanna. According to Antony Nixon, a lawyer and partner at Thomas Eggar LLP, had this occurred in today’s time, Ms. Hathaway could have asked the court to award her more as Shakespeare’s will failed to give her “reasonable financial provision.”
- Harry Houdini: A strong believer in the afterlife and spiritual mediums, Houdini’s will stated that a seance should be held on each anniversary of his death. As he died on Halloween in 1926, a yearly seance would be spookily appropriate for the holiday. Houdini had also promised his wife Bess that he would contact her in the afterlife with a pre-planned ten digit secret message. When she reported his presence she was to prove it with evidence of the agreed-upon message, but she never seemed to make contact.
- Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral de Camara: Luis Carlos was a Portuguese aristocrat who left his large fortune to 70 strangers that were randomly chosen out of a Lisbon phone directory. Portugal’s Sol Newspaper reported that one stranger-turned-heiress thought it was a “cruel joke” because she had never heard of the man before fortune turned in her favor.
- Mark Gruenwald: Gruenwald was the Executive Editor of Captain America and Iron Man and was involved in a number of other Marvel Comics. In his last will and testament, he stipulated that he wanted his ashes to be mixed into the ink used to print the comic books. According to Forbes, his wish was followed and he is forever inked into Marvel’s comic books.
- Jack Benny: Benny, a legendary comedian in the United States, left a stipulation that is more touching than strange. In his will, he left a monetary provision for flowers and stated that one red rose was to be delivered to his wife, Mary Livingstone, every day for the rest of her life. Ms. Livingstone was rather surprised when a florist consistently showed up on her doorstep with a long-stemmed red rose, but soon discovered the lovely gesture included in Benny’s will.
Everyone should have a will and engage in some estate planning so that their goods are not left unaccounted for when they die. When you contact your attorney to make your will, however, perhaps you should keep it simple for the benefit of those who will be legally obligated to follow it.