15 of the Weirdest Wills Ever Written 0

What’s the best reason to make a will? To protect your family? Safeguard a legacy? Or is it, perhaps, to cause a little mischief?

If you’re leaning towards that last reason, you’re not alone: there’s no shortage of bizarre bequests on record. So, to inspire you and celebrate the launch of our own free online will service, we’ve put together a round-up of the weirdest wills we could find.

Then again, perhaps you too would like …

 

To be cremated and kept in a Pringle tube

Once you pop, you just can’t … think of a better final resting place? Fred Baur invented the original Pringle tube – and was so proud that he used his will to request that he be cremated and buried in one. Baur’s children say they obliged:

“My siblings and I briefly debated what flavour to use … but I said, ‘Look, we need to use the original.’” – Fred’s son Larry Baur.

Obviously.

 

To disinherit your son if he ever grows a mustache

Man eating dinner and explaining why his moustache was worth being disinherited
“Personally, I think the moustache was worth it.”

Mr Henry Budd hated moustaches. A lot. So much, in fact, that he left a note in his will specifying that if either one of his sons grew a ‘tache, they would immediately forfeit the right to inherit Budd’s £200,000 estate.

“In case my son Edward shall wear moustaches, then the devise herein before contained in favour of him, his appointees, heirs, and assigns, of my said estate called ‘Pepper Park’, shall be void.” – Henry Budd.

Luckily for Henry, he died in 1862, thereby missing out on the recent facial hair renaissance in his hometown of Brixton.

 

To give £26,000 to Jesus Christ – if He can prove His identity

Norman Earnest Digweed’s 1897 will promised a substantial reward to Jesus Christ upon his return … on the condition that He convince the executors of the estate that He’s the real deal. We’re guessing that a beard and robes wouldn’t have cut it.

 

To pass on $50,000 for the Zink Womanless Library

A man and a woman smiling at each other in a library.
“Get out.”

Iowa lawyer TM Zink disliked women with such intensity that he left $50,000 in a trust to fund the “Zink Womanless Library”. Stocked solely with books written by men, the library was to have “No Women Admitted” signs at every entrance.

“My intense hatred of women is not of recent origin or development nor based upon any personal differences I ever had with them but is the result of my experiences with women, observations of them and study of all literatures and philosophical works.” – TM Zink.

Sadly for Zink and bookish misogynists everywhere, his family contested the will after his death in 1930 and the library has yet to appear.

 

To request a fitting funeral for the “King of Smokers”

Affluent Dutch tradesman Mr. Klass was known as the “King of the Smokers” in his lifetime. So when it came to writing his will, it’s perhaps unsurprising that he made a few smoke-related requests. More than a few, in fact:

  • that all the smokers in the country be invited to his funeral;
  • that everyone at his funeral be given memorial pipes engraved with his name, plus tobacco;
  • that the pipes be kept alight throughout the funeral service, then emptied out onto the coffin;
  • that his oak coffin be lined with the wood of his cigar boxes; and
  • to be buried with his favourite pipe, along with a box of matches, a flint, steel and some tinder, as “there was no knowing what might happen”.

 

Drums lying on the floor
Original drums not shown.

To be turned into a nifty drum kit

In 1871, hatmaker S Sanborn’s will turned out to include a bizarre request: that two drums were to be made from his skin and given to a friend. Sanborn also specified that the friend was to use the drums to play “Yankee Doodle Dandy” on Bunker Hill every year on June 17th.

 

To be turned into a Frisbee

Think you’re a hardcore Frisbee fan? You’ll never out-fan “Steady” Ed Headrick, the inventor who not only perfected the Frisbee, but also chose to become one. Headrick used his will to request that his ashes be placed inside a limited run of Frisbees for friends and relatives.

“When we die, we don’t go to Purgatory. We just land up on the roof and lay there.” – Ed Headrick.

The will states that any left-over memorial Frisbees be sold to raise funds for a Frisbee museum. In fact, if you want to help Ed out, you can buy one of your own here.

 

To be contacted via an annual séance

Famous magician Harry Houdini died on Halloween, so it’s perhaps fitting that his will was a little bit creepy. Houdini requested that his wife hold a séance each year on the anniversary of his death to check whether he could contact her from beyond the grave.

So far, so spooky. But (being a lifelong sceptic and dedicated debunker of fraudulent mediums) Houdini also gave his wife a secret 10-letter code so that she could make sure it was really him. So far, no luck, although Houdini fans are still trying.

 

To leave $750,000 to the winner of the “Great Stork Derby” …

Storks in a nest
Storks were not eligible.

Eccentric Canadian lawyer Charles Vance Millar became posthumously famous when he bequeathed the residue of his estate to “the Mother who has since my death given birth in Toronto to the greatest number of children.”

This unusual bequest might have been forgotten by time, were it not for the fact that shares worth $2 at the time of Millar’s death in 1926 skyrocketed in value. By the time the deadline was reached, the estate was worth a life-changing $750,000: about $10.7 million in today’s money.

The media dubbed the bequest “The Great Stork Derby”, and the race was followed avidly until it ended in a tie between four women with nine children each.

… and pull other pranks

Charles Vance Millar’s will included other mischievous bequests. A Jamaican holiday home was given to three lawyers who notoriously hated each other. Highly valuable Ontario Jockey Club shares were bequeathed to men who had been vocally opposed to racetrack betting. Catholic brewery shares were given to anti-drink Protestant ministers.

Beneficiaries agonising over whether they should accept these “immoral” bequests would eventually come up against a final catch: most of the shares were worth very little – or weren’t owned by Millar in the first place.

 

To build an epic mansion for cats

Cat in front of cat play house.
This cat is slumming it.

How much do you love your cat? Enough to provide for them in your will? Probably. Enough to leave money for the construction of an elaborate cat mansion?

Again, probably – but not everyone has the means.

In the late 19th century, Jonathan Jackson did: he set aside considerable funds in this will for the creation of a huge “cat house”.

The sprawling feline estate was to include bedrooms, a dining room, exercise grounds, rat holes for sport, and an auditorium where the cats could listen to “accordion music”, which as everyone knows is the preferred music of cats.

 

To give your cat imported baby food and an arranged marriage

Dusty Springfield’s pet cat Nicholas was less lucky. The “I Only Want to Be with You” singer stated in her will that the 13 year old feline was to be fed only on imported British baby food.

Slightly more appealing purrks of this unusual arrangement were: a “7-foot indoor tree house” lined with scratch pads and catnip; a daily serenade of some of Springfield’s greatest hits; and “marriage” to a younger female cat owned by Nicholas’ new guardian.

 

 fifth Earl of Pembroke
“Come at me.”

To give someone a ye olde insult

The fifth Earl of Pembroke used his 17th century will to take a sly jab at Cromwell:

“I give to the Lieutenant-General Cromwell one of my words … which he must want, seeing as he hath never kept one of his own.” – Philip, fifth Earl of Pembroke.

Ouch.

 

To be used as a stage prop in Hamlet

Dying to tread the boards? You wouldn’t be the first. In the mid-19th century, veteran stagehand John “Pop” Reed successfully bequeathed his skull to the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia for use in the famous “Alas, poor Yorick” scene in Hamlet:

Skulls on shelves
Backstage at the RSC.

My head to be separated from my body immediately after my death; the latter to be buried in a grave; the former, duly macerated and prepared, to be brought to the theatre, where I have served all my life, and to be employed to represent the skull of Yorick—and to this end I bequeath my head to the properties.” – John Reed.

Reed was not the last person to make this slightly macabre bequest. Audiences who went to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Hamlet in 2008 were later surprised to learn that Yorick had been “played” by famous Polish concert pianist André Tchaikowsky.

But not every bequest has to be followed. In life, actor Jonathan Hartman never made it into an RSC production. So, he too bequeathed his skull to the company … and was turned down. As the Independent noted at the time, “Even after death a rejection slip awaits Mr Hartman.”

 

To keep the house ready for your reincarnation

Vermont tanner John Bowman believed strongly in reincarnation – so strongly, in fact, that he left a $50,000 trust to keep his mansion ready for his return.

The 1891 will stipulated that a meal for four was to be served each night in case Bowman and his family were peckish after their journey from the other side. This clause was apparently upheld until 1950, when the money ran out.

 

To hand over your birthday

Balloons
Shiver me timbers.

Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson bequeathed 12-year-old Annie Ide something worth more to her than gold: his birthday.

Knowing that Ide (perhaps understandably) hated having a birthday on Christmas Day, and having “no further use for a birthday”, Stevenson gave her his own. Stevenson did have conditions, however:

“I charge her to use my said birthday with moderation and humanity … the said birthday not being so young as it once was and having carried me in a very satisfactory manner since I can remember.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Were Ide to contravene these terms, the birthday would pass to the President of the United States “for the time being”. Luckily, she never did, and the birthday is still in the family today.

 

Ready to make your own?

Not every will needs to be this complicated. With our online will service, you can make a simple will online in just 10 minutes. That’s less time than it takes to make a sandwich (a good one, at least).

Do you have a weird will story? We’d love to hear it. Tell us in the comments below.

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How to Get the Most Out of Your Retirement 0

retirement

Whether you’re close to retirement age or not, the idea of life without work is an incredibly appealing prospect. However, if you want to get the most out of your retirement, it’s vital that you begin to think about what you want to take from it and how you can prepare for it.

 

Financially, there are a huge number of considerations to make, including savings, investments, pensions, funeral plans and wills, but you also need to think about how you can maximise your time and what kind of a life you want to live once you quit your job for good. Here we take a look at a few different ways you can get the most from your retirement.

 retirement

 

What do you want from retirement?

One of the key ways of ensuring you get what you want out of your retirement is by taking the time to consider how you want to spend the time and what you want to do with it. If you don’t know what you want from life after work, how are you going to ensure you achieve your goals? Everyone desires something different from retirement – be it a peaceful few years at home enjoying your hobbies, travelling the world or ticking off items on your bucket list – so it makes sense that people will need to prepare in different ways too.

 

Plan ahead

Once you understand exactly what you want from retirement, you can begin to work out how to achieve your aims. This will involve asking a number of important questions. How large will savings need to be? How many more years do you expect to work? How long is your retirement likely to be? Are there any other important financial considerations, such as rent, a mortgage, health bills or family commitments, to consider? Once you’ve answered such questions, you’ll be in a better position to budget for a financially secure future that’s able to deliver those things you really desire.

 

Reduce expenditure

One important but often forgotten means of ensuring a happy retirement is minimising the cost of those expenditures associated with old age. While a lot of people don’t consider a funeral plan until they are well into retirement, there’s enormous savings to be made if you begin thinking about these things now. With funeral costs rising at a far higher rate than inflation, a plan like the Beyond Open Plan could drastically reduce the amount you pay out for your funeral. By thinking ahead and taking out a plan like this now, you freeze the cost of your funeral at today’s prices and could avoid paying three times as much in 10 to 15 years’ time.

 

Prioritise

Finally, getting the most out of your retirement necessitates a certain amount of prioritisation. Realistically, you’re not going to be able to do absolutely everything you want with your retirement, so it’s important that you begin to think about what’s really vital to your plans and what you can afford to drop. Remember that life is full of surprises, so you don’t want to overstretch your savings and potentially leave yourself open to financial uncertainty. It’s always a good idea to maintain some savings as security should things not turn out quite as you had planned.

When should you start thinking about your own funeral? 1

thinking about your own funeral

Although there is no prescribed age at which you should begin thinking about your own funeral, there’s a number of reasons you shouldn’t leave it too late. Here we take a look at why it’s best to take a more practical approach and to start contemplating how you would like your own funeral to be at a much younger age.

 thinking about your own funeral

You’re never too young…

Ultimately, you’re never too young to start thinking about your own funeral. Though it may sound slightly macabre to talk about funeral arrangements before a funeral becomes a likely proposition, there are a number of advantages to beginning to contemplate what you would want from a memorial service and how you’re going to finance it. Often, planning ahead can leave you in a better financial position, make you feel more secure and help to ensure your funeral is exactly how you would like it to be.

 

Talking about death

One of the key advantages of beginning to think and talk about your funeral arrangements at a younger age is that it encourages us to talk about death and dying. In a number of ways, contemporary society is incredibly uncomfortable with death and has managed to sideline and hide it from view. We use euphemisms instead of referring to death directly, avoid discussions surrounding the topic, and try to push it from our minds as much as possible. Rather than accepting it as a part of life and treating it as such, death has become somewhat of a taboo subject. This can be both an unhealthy and unhelpful approach to take, so it’s important to start talking more openly at a younger age about death, dying and funerals.

 

Funeral Plan

There’s also a more practical reason for starting to think about your own funeral at an earlier stage in your life. If you begin by looking at the Beyond Open Plan, you’ll discover that such a plan freezes the price of a funeral at today’s rates. With the cost of funeral services expected to rise at an incredible rate over the next few years, this could save you an enormous amount of money in the long run. Not only does it guarantee a cheaper funeral, it gives you complete control over the arrangements, ensuring everything’s exactly as you want it.

 

It can be a comfort to your family

Organising a funeral is difficult, especially if you’re grieving. You want to make sure that every detail is as your loved one would have wanted it, from the music to the dress code. If you haven’t recorded your wishes anywhere, this places an added burden onto your family.

 

It only gets harder

Finally, it’s also important to think about what happens if you leave your funeral plans to the last minute. For some people, making their own funeral arrangements later in life doesn’t really pose a problem. For others, it can be extremely difficult. As we get older, when death becomes a more realistic proposition and we’re confronted with our own mortality, it can be a challenge to talk about these important issues. Rather than discussing them with family members or friends, many people avoid their fear of death by sidestepping the subject, leaving them unprepared at the end of their lives. By starting to talk about death at a younger age, we can ensure this isn’t the case.