Unique Clauses in Famous Last Will and Testaments

A last will and testament is a common tool used to document the creator’s final wishes. Most wills are relatively mundane, passing property to spouses, children and other relatives without any real surprises. Throughout history, there have been some famous last will and testaments that caught the world’s attention with their odd and unique clauses.

1. Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin left a bedazzled picture frame to his daughter that contained more than 400 diamonds. Along with the frame was a clause stating that his daughter would not be permitted to wear jewels, as this was considered “expensive, vain and useless.” His daughter did not honor the clause.

2. William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare left the majority of his estate to his daughter upon his death, even though his wife Anne Hathaway was still living. To his wife, he left only the “second best bed,” resulting in one of the best snubs from the grave of all time.

3. Harry Houdini

When Harry Houdini died in 1926, he left odd instructions behind for his wife. Because Houdini believed in life after death, he wanted to make sure his wife would be able to recognize him, so he left a secret code consisting of 10 words in his will. he also suggested that his wife conduct a seance to contact him every Halloween after he died. It is not known whether his wife followed these instructions.

4. Heinrich “Henry” Heine

Heinrich “Henry” Heine was a German poet who added an odd condition to his will, which was read in 1856. Heine required his wife to remarry in order to inherit his estate. He also provided a reason for this provision, specifically that he wanted there to be at least one man to regret his death.

5. Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara

Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara was an aristocrat who left his large fortune to 70 strangers he chose at random out of a phone directory. Some of the heirs had never heard of him and were shocked to receive such a sizable inheritance with no warning.

6. Gene Roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry, who was the creator of Star Trek, passed away in 1991. He left a clause in his Will that required heirs to scatter his ashes in space. This request was fulfilled in 1997.

7. Anonymous lover of Britain

In 1928, an anonymous individual left a sum of money now totaling more than £350 million to the nation of Britain. The will included a provision that required the money be passed to Britain only once it was enough to clear the national debt. Because the national debt is still too high, the money remains untouched.

Although the wills discussed here are unique or even comical, a last will and testament is no laughing matter for most. If you have people depending on you for support, you need to develop an estate plan as soon as possible. If you are interested in a will, trust or other estate planning tools, please contact Tough Law today to make an appointment.  We can handle all types of wills, including those with strange or unlikely requirements.

Diana Tough

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