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Unusual instructions left in Wills

From specifying how a beloved cat must be cared for, to pay back for never being allowed to smoke and instructions that the hair of the deceased be distributed among friends… these are some stories of notable and unusual instructions left in the Wills.

Napoleon Bonaparte, directed in his Will that when he died (which he did - in 1821) his head was to be shaved and his hair be distributed among his friends. (It was)

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the Star Trek television series, requested that his ashes be blasted into space on a satellite and scattered as it orbited Earth.  In 1997, six years after his death, Roddenberry’s instructions were carried out and his ashes were able “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

’60s pop singer Dusty Springfield left very specific instructions in her will. Springfield’s will demanded that her cat, Nicholas, be fed imported baby food, live in an indoor tree house, be sung to sleep at night with Dusty’s old records, have his bed lined with Dusty’s pillowcase and nightgown, and get married to a friend’s female cat.

The will of wealthy American hotel investor Leona Helmsley specified that $10 million be left for two of her grandsons, on the condition that they visit their father’s grave at least once a year. To make sure that they did, the will stipulated that the trustees “shall have placed in the Helmsley Mausoleum a register to be signed by each visitor”.  Her other two grandchildren were excluded from the Will but disputed – and settled. Her Maltese dog ‘Trouble’ got $12 million in trust and a paid guardian.

Samuel Bratt a wealthy American industrialist was a man who knew how to bear a grudge and clearly loved to smoke. He saw his eventual death as an opportunity to get even with his wife, who would not allow him to indulge his habit. When he died in 1960, his will specified that she receive the estate as long as she smoke five cigars a day.

As amusing as some directions are, whether a person’s ‘weird’ wishes can be legally carried out is another question.  Once upon a time, it was common for a husband to leave his widow a life interest in his estate, “until she remarried”.  Such directions today are much more likely to be overturned by a Court.

Most Wills are far more ordinary in their intentions and instructions. But if there’s one lesson we can all learn from them, it’s this: make your estate plan your own and get a professional involved.

You can find out more information about estate planning and wills generally, including who to speak to about as to how you can ensure your will does exactly what you want it to do once you’re gone here on our website.

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