10 Last Laughs: Weird Wills and Strange Legacies

10 Last Laughs: Weird Wills and Strange Legacies

For some reason, the other night I was thinking about death. Of course I always do that. Sometimes it’s just because I’m afraid of dying, sometimes it’s because I’m fantasizing about someone close to me dying. I think maybe this time it’s because my Rich Uncle keeps reminding me that I will need to care for his cats in the event of his demise. And also, the internet likes lists, and I am always looking for ideas that can be synthesized into a handy list. I don’t have much regard for lists in this particular iteration, and I really hate being a slave to the mechanisms of SEO, but I have to improve my rankings for the whole making money, platform-building thing.

“Stop being so self-conscious about the modality and write about your subject matter. Get to the point. The internet people can’t parse all those trains of thought.”

“Yes, you are right, but that hurts my feelings.”

“Your sensitivity is what attracts readers to you.”

“Fuck you.”

Death is always looming. When people die, especially when they have a lot of shit to give away, they can call from the grave to their loved ones because they know their loved ones want their stuff. Almost like they still have a hand in the world of the living. I will certainly want to control these people after I go, so I totally get why writing a will is critical. I’ve decided to compile a list of some of the weird and funny things people have done from the grave. Unfortunately, the title of this post has to have the appeal for the internet people, so all the good titles can’t really be used. Anyway, here’s the list:

  1. I have great admiration for people who have a great sense of humor, but when you’re breathing and getting boozed up it’s fairly easy to do. When you’re dead it’s much more admirable. Charles Vance Millar, a wealthy Canadian lawyer, gave a Jamaican vacation home to three people he knew hated each other. He was better known for offering half a million dollars to the woman who could birth the most children. The frenzy to breed for money was known as the “Great Stork Derby,” and four women split the money, each with nine children to feed.

  2. Dead people are not immune from being sad and pathetic, either. A woman named Audrey Knauer left her $300,000 estate to actor Charles Bronson, leaving her family nothing. Perhaps even more astounding is the fact that Bronson accepted half of the bequest despite the stipulation in her will that what he did not take would go to charity. He must have felt like it was his due, because of all that testosterone and celebrity and whatnot.

  3. Death can also offer an opportunity to stand for principles you hold dear, even if they are morally unconscionable. T.M. Zink left his daughter the sum of $5, zero to his wife, and established a trust to build The Womanless Library, where no books by women could be shelved, no references to women were permitted, and no artwork or furniture designed by women could reside. Clearly he had a bad time of things with the ladies in his life.

  4. Solomon Sandborn demanded that the skin from his body be stripped from his corpse to fashion two drums, and these were to be given to his friend Warren Simpson, who would somehow play “Yankee Doodle” on his flesh drums at Bunker Hill every 17th of June to commemorate the Revolutionary war battle fought there. I can only imagine the sort of friendship these two guys had.

  5. Samuel Bratt left this world with a grievance with his wife, who clearly nagged him about his smoking, for he left her £333,000 under the condition that she smoked five cigars a day. I hope he got his point across.

  6. Jeremy Bentham left his entire estate to the London Hospital under the condition that his corpse be preserved and allowed to attend the hospital’s board meetings. His body sits in a glass-enclosed cabinet in the Committee Room, where the minutes always reflect that he is ‘present but not voting.’

  7. Most people are aware of the estate valued at 139 million Deutschmarks that Countess Karlotta Liebenstein left to her German Shepherds, who would enjoy a higher standard of living than basically anyone in East Germany. There are many well known wills and testaments that leave assets to animals, which leads me to believe the deceased in these cases had very little grasp on life while they were here.

  8. Leona Helmsley seemed to recover from her failed fortune and imprisonment for tax evasion, because she was able to leave $12 million dollars to her Maltese. Incidentally, she left nothing to two of her grandchildren, and two others were given a few million dollars only if they visited their father’s grave once a year. This opens up the idea of morbid reflection in so many ways. Her estate was valued in the billions of dollars, and after the dog and grandchildren were taken care of, the rest was to go to the cause of canine welfare. I would like to know why, after that infusion of cash, there are any dogs on the entire planet who suffer at all. I am fairly confident that problem should be taken care of by now.

  9. German poet Heinrich Heine left his estate to his wife, but the condition was that she remarry to ensure that “there would be at least one man to regret my death.”

  10. An Irishman, in his will, stated “To my wife, I leave her lover, and the knowledge that I was not the fool she thought me; to my son I leave the pleasure of earning a living. For 20 years he thought the pleasure was mine; he was mistaken.”

It may be true you can’t take it with you, but you can certainly try to screw with people when you go. If I were practicing family law, my call to action would be right here.


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