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Weird and Wonderful Last Wills and Testaments

Weird and Wonderful Last Wills and Testaments

Will you be dictating that a séance is held every anniversary of your death or that your ashes are scattered in space?

We doubt that most people will make such requests when they die, but unusual last will and testament requests are out there. Here at Finders International, we are used to dealing with cases where people die intestate and so their exact wishes are not known. Here are some examples of unusual last requests:

Harry Houdini who died in 1926 requested that a séance should be held every anniversary of his death. He had promised his wife Bess that he would contact her in the after-life, using a pre-planned 10-digit secret message. Bess never revealed whether Houdini had contacted her or not.

The creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry’s last will and testament included instructions to have his ashes scattered via a space satellite orbiting the earth. This was done in 1997.
Animals can often benefit from unusual will requests – as the pets who belonged to British singer Dusty Springfield, heiress Eleanor Ritchey and investor/hotel owner Leona Helmsley can testify.

Dusty Springfield made her cat a priority, with instructions that it was to be fed imported baby food and serenaded with her songs. Eleanor Ritchie (the heiress to the Quaker State Refining Corporation) left $14 million to her 150 stray dogs. When the last dog died, her will specified that the remainder of the estate was to a research foundation, specifically research on canine disease.

Leona Helmsley donated $35 million to charities in the last years of her life and her will set up a $12 million trust fund for her Maltese dog (the amount was later reduced to $2 million by a judge).

Mark Gruenwald (the executive editor of Captain America and Iron Man) asked that his ashes were mixed with ink used to print comic books.

The Victorian author Charles Dickens, best known for Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, asked that mourners attending his funeral wore no scarves, cloaks, black bows or other such “revolting absurdity”. He also asked for an inexpensive and simple funeral.

His requests were ignored – his funeral was turned into a national event with a huge funeral cortege.

George Bernard Shaw, the playwright who died in 1950, asked that there was no religious funeral and he also left specific instructions for his tombstone. In addition, the playwright had always been fascinated by the idea of reformed English spelling and he left a part of his estate for use to promote a new phonetic alphabet. This was overruled by a court as it was felt to be an impossible request.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States, asked that his daughter not engage in the “expensive, vain and useless pastime of wearing jewels”. He had left a picture of King Louis XVI to his daughter – the picture frame was studded with more than 400 diamonds and it’s thought the request was to prevent her from removing the diamonds from the picture.

Have you made an unusual request in your will or do you know of any unusual requests made by others? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.