10 of the Most Unusual Last Wills & Testaments of the Famous

10 of the Most Unusual Last Wills & Testaments of the Famous

A “last will and testament,” or simply a “will,” is “an act whereby a person is permitted, with the formalities prescribed by law, to control to a certain degree the disposition of his estate”. It is a document whereby a person, called the “testator,” disposes of his/her properties or “estate,” to take effect upon his/her death.

While most people create Wills and Testaments to put their final and financial affairs in order, there have been these certain other people in the world who have used these means to make a political point or program line; or well, just to make for a good old hearty laugh!

Here’s the Top 10 of the Most Unusual Last Wills And Testaments

1 – Virgil

Died in 10 B.C

Last Wish: Burn the Aeneid

The great Roman poet, Virgil is known for his Aeneid, once famous as the National Poem of Rome. Before his death, Virgil had completed only 12 books as opposed to the 24 of the epic poems by Homer.

Since his work was left incomplete, he had ordered for it to be destroyed by fire after his death. However, when his friends found out about this strange bout of destructive death wish, they convinced him to remove this particular request from his will.

He consented and the poem was published to great acclaim. I am sure we all have something to be grateful for as far as Virgil’s tenacious friends are concerned.

2 – William Shakespeare

Died in 1616

Last Wish: That his wife receive his ‘Second best bed.’

This strange wish made by Shakespeare caused much speculation among people about his relationship with his wife Anne Hathaway. Not only it was a strange request, it was put on the document as an after thought. In those times, leaving a bed to someone though was not an unusual thing as a good quality bed sans vermin or fleas was a highly prized and a very expensive thing.

However, adding fuel to the debate was the epitaph that Shakespeare left on his grave: ‘Blest be the man that spares these stones, /And cursed by he that moves my bones.’ While some conjecture that Shakespeare meant to scare off Grave Robbers, the wordings however were taken so seriously that when his wife died seven years later, her body was allowed to be placed with his.

3 – Charles Dickens

Died in 1870

Last Wish: That mourners ‘who attend my funeral wear no scarf, cloak, black bow, long hatband, or other such revolting absurdity.’

Along with the above, Dickens also wrote that he was not to have a public funeral and the place and time of his funeral was not be made public. He also requested for an inexpensive funeral with only three plain ‘mourning coaches.’

Dickens’s request however were ignored – and on a grand scale! He was honored by a full funeral cortege, with all members present in full funeral regalia. His funeral aptly put was a national event.

The man who was used to getting whatever he wanted in life, in a sense died wanting in that manner.

4 – George Bernard Shaw

Died in 1950

Last Wish: He ordered no religious service and that his tombstone not ‘take the form of a cross or any other instrument of torture or symbol of blood sacrifice.’

George Bernard Shaw was not so soft on religion and his will included a section that lent his support to ‘Darwin’s millennial saga of creation’ over the Bibles’ ‘six day synopsis’. GB Shaw had always been deeply fascinated with the idea of a reformed English spelling. He created a 40 letter phonetic alphabet to make spelling much simpler.

As a part of his will, he left a sizable portion of his estate to promote the new alphabet. This was however overruled by the court as it was ‘not nearly possible’ and the money was distributed to three organizations: The British Museum, The National Gallery of Ireland and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

5 – Benjamin Franklin

Died in 1790

Last Wish: That in a democracy, his daughter not engage in ‘the expensive, vain and useless pastime of wearing jewels.’

Benjamin Franklin was one of most deeply admired men the New World as well as the Western World in the late 18th century.

The reason though for this odd request was that as former ambassador to France, Franklin was given the portrait of King Louis XVI in a frame that was studded in 408 diamonds. He left this picture and frame to his daughter Sarah and included the strange last wish in his will to dissuade her from removing the diamonds from the frame to get jewelry made for her.

6 – John B Kelly

Died in 1960

Last Wish: That the clothing bills of his daughter, Princess Grace, not bankrupt the Principality of Monaco.

Kelly was a multimillionaire contractor who was also a triple Olympic Gold Medal Winner. His daughter/actress Grace Kelly was married into the Royal Family of Monaco. His will though was his attempt at a last laugh, a god humored expense at the cost of his family.

Some really amusing sections of his will are:

(To my son John) all my personal belongings, such as trophies, rings, jewelry, watches, clothing and athletic equipment, except the ties, shirts, sweaters and socks, as it seems unnecessary to give him something of which he has already taken possession.

He however left nothing to his Son in Law, Prince Rainer of Monaco, stating:

I don’t want to give the impression that I am against sons-in-law. If they are the right type, they will provide for themselves and their families, and what I am able to give my daughters will help pay the dress shop bills, which, if they continue as they started out, under the able tutelage of their mother, will be quite considerable.

7 – Harry Houdini

Died in 1926

Last Wish: That his wife hold an annual séance so that he could reveal himself to her.

Owing to his mother’s death, in his later life, Houdini had become very interested in spiritualism as he felt the impact of the great loss of her death. After tying unsuccessfully for many years to communicate with her through spiritualists, he gave up and decided that the whole thing was hogwash.

However, in order to prove it, Houdini left his wife with a secret note with 10 words randomly selected that he would communicate to her after his death. For as long as
10 years his wife held a séance on Halloween waiting for him to utter through random words to her, Houdini never showed up.

8 – Napoleon Bonaparte

Died in 1821

Last Wish: That his head be shaved and that his hair be divided amongst his friends.

In a stranger twist to a strange tale, recent analysis revealed that some of the hair that was kept by his friends contained large amounts of arsenic.

His symptoms prior to his death, like vomiting dried blood are very consistent with arsenic poisoning. There is speculation that the walls of his room contained arsenic (not very uncommon at that time), and that it was his environment that killed him. However, there are others who believe that he was slowly poisoned by the English. Infact, due to his stomach cancer, his doctor was prescribing him another kind of poison which contributed to his final demise.

9 – William Hearst

Died in 1951

Last Wish: That anyone who could prove ‘that he or she is a child of mine (receive) a sum of one dollar. I hereby declare that any such asserted claim (…) would be utterly false’.

Hearst was an American newspaper magnate and a leading newspaper publisher. He was the son of a self made millionaire, George Hearst. However, he found out that his father received a northern California newspaper, The San Francisco Examiner as payment for a gambling debt. He asked his father to give him the paper to run and he eventually built a multimillion dollar empire out of it.

Hearst was also the grandfather of Patty Hearst; the heiress was known to suffer from Stockholm syndrome.

10 – John Bowman

Died in 1891

Last Wish: For dinner to be prepared every night after his death, well, for incase if he came back to life… then what?

Bowman’s wife and two daughters had died before him and he had somehow become convinced that his entire family would be reincarnated together. Driven by this weird belief, he set up a trust worth $50,000 to pay servants to keep up the housework in his 21 room mansion.

He also requested that a daily meal be prepared in case if the family reincarnated and returned hungry! His wish was honored until his trust ran out of funds in 1950.

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