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.



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.



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

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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5 Excellent Reasons Why Every Parent Should Make a Will 0

A mum makes her will online with her two children

As a busy parent, death probably isn’t on your mind all that often.

Yes, young children do have an eerie ability to find and eat/climb/touch the one thing in any given place that will kill them. And yes, stepping on an abandoned Lego brick may, on occasion, make you feel like death is the preferable option. 

But death, and wills, often take a backseat to more immediate problems. Like giving lifts (so many lifts) and prising the Lego out of your feet.

That’s a mistake. For parents, making a will is one of the most important things you can do for your family. Here’s why!


5 reasons every parent should make a will

Half term is over. After a week of juggling a full house, you finally have some time to yourself. Why not take 15 minutes to make your will? After all, you can…


1) Choose guardians

If you were to die tomorrow, who would you want to raise your children?

The obvious choice isn’t always the best one. The grandparents are an option – but kids can be exhausting, even for young sprightly people. You also might have siblings, but how close do they live? Who actually feels the same way as you about things like discipline, religion, medical care and education? 

With a will, you get to pick guardians for your children in case something happens to you. That way, someone you trust will raise your kids the way you’d like them to be raised. 


2) Protect a partner

Can your partner pay rent without your help? Or the mortgage? Would they be able to afford child care without your salary in the mix?

If the answer is ‘no’, a will is essential. Why?

If you and your partner aren’t married, they aren’t automatically entitled to any of your estate when you die. 3.3 million couples in the UK are cohabiting without that ring on the finger. If you’re one of them, you’ll need a will to make sure your partner would inherit anything from you.

If you and your partner are married, they STILL won’t necessarily get everything! They’re entitled to the first £270,000, all your belongings, plus half of whatever is left over (the rest goes to your kids). 

This might seem fine and dandy. But there’s a real benefit to leaving your whole estate to your spouse: anything you give them can’t be taken in inheritance tax. Spending just £90 on a will could save your family thousands.


3) Protect your children

You might not want your partner to get everything if you die. After all, while we might like to imagine them mourning us forever, casting a single rose on our grave every day and never loving again, there’s a good chance your partner will find someone else – making their new partner their heir. 

So, you might prefer to leave a decent portion of your estate to your children: a little untouchable nest egg that spouse 2.0 won’t be able to touch. 

Similarly, your parents may well need care as they grow older. Without a will, they don’t have a claim to your estate unless you’re unmarried with no kids. You could set aside some funds to help them manage.


4) Prevent family disputes

No one wants their legacy to be a really bitter fight between their relatives. Least of all parents, after years of threatening to turn the car around if the kids don’t. stop. bickering. 

With a will, you can make your wishes clear, and make sure everything is fair, too.

If there’s a family heirloom that would be better off with your sister than your partner, you can pass that on: fight prevented. 

If you’re a step-parent, you might want to make sure your step-children get the same benefits as your biological children. Without a will, step-kids have no automatic claim to your estate, even if you’ve been acting as their parent for years.


5) And remember: it’s never too early

A lot of us put off making a will. Plenty of time for that later. But when you’re a parent, the consequences of dying without a will can be particularly painful for those left behind. And according to Child Bereavement UK, a parent of a child under 18 dies every 22 minutes in the UK – that’s around 23,600 people a year.

With a will, you can safeguard your family’s future, whatever happens.


Make a will today

It takes just 15 minutes to make a will with Beyond. Simply click here and answer our simple questions about your wishes, and we’ll turn them into a legally binding will. All you have to do is print and sign.

Make your will

A simple will with a traditional solicitor costs between £150 and £500. At Beyond, it costs just £90 for a single will and £135 if you make yours with a partner. And for just £10 a year, you can get unlimited wills: that means that whenever something in your life changes, you can update your will quickly and easily. Perfect for growing families.

Can you leave it all to your cat? Pet beneficiaries explained 0

A cat who has been left an estate in a will

Somewhere in Germany, there is a dog with more money than most of us could ever dream of. 

Gunther IV, the world's richest dog
The real Gunther IV at home.

Gunther IV owns property in three countries. He spends afternoons by his private pool. He summers in the Bahamas. He has a butler, and a maid, and a limo. He apparently lives with a team of supermodels.

Gunther IV has all this because German Countess Karlotta Leibenstein left her entire $80 million fortune to her dog, Gunther III. Who left it to his son.

Now, most pet owners would deem this a bit extreme. After years of letting the cat out, and in, and out again (ad nauseum), he really owes you — right?

But some of us do wonder: could I do that?


Can you leave your entire fortune to your pet(s)?

If you’re reading this in the UK, the answer is … sort of.

You can’t directly leave all your money to your cat, or dog, like you would a normal human beneficiary. In UK law, a pet is a possession, not a person (don’t look at me like that, I don’t make the rules).

But that doesn’t mean you can’t make sure your furry (or feathered, or scaly) friend will live in style without you. Here are the options.


The popular choice: Pet guardians

If you’re a parent, you can use your will to choose legal guardians for your kids, just in case. A lot of people know about this. 

Don’t forget to show the guardian your chin-scratching technique.

What they don’t know is that you can do the same thing with your pets. 

It’s a standard service we offer here at Beyond. When you make your will, you can pick someone to take in your beloved pet. Someone you trust to give them the love (and constant door opening) they need. 

You can also leave your chosen guardian funds and equipment to help them in their new role of pet-parent. After all, pets can be pricey. The lifetime cost of owning a cat is £17,000, and dogs can cost us up to £31,000 over the years.

For most people, the pet guardian option is perfect (purrfect?). It means your pet will go to a loving home, rather than a shelter. And it prevents vicious family debates over their eventual fate.

But for others, something more tail-ored is required.

On Beyond, it costs just £90 to make a will that protects your pets. That’s hundreds less than most traditional solicitors! Click here to make your will with us today.


The full-throttle option: Pet trusts

Pet trusts are relatively new to the UK, but they’re catching on fast.

A dog with money from a pet trust fund
Dogs are famously rubbish with money. Photo from Training Academy on Flickr.

A pet trust is a pot of money that can only be used to pay for your pet’s care after you die. You choose a carer, and lay out a set of things the money can be spent on (vet’s fees, food, etc.) You also choose trustees. Their job is to make sure the money is actually spent on your pet, and not on holidays in Bali. 

When your pet joins you in the great beyond, the remaining money goes to your chosen beneficiary.

Now, pet trusts can be complicated to set up. Compared to naming guardians in your will, it’s a more expensive option. But if you’re interested, we recommend talking to our complex wills team. They’ll be able to help you out.

Interested in setting up a pet trust? No problem. Call our complex wills team on 0800 054 9793.


The catch

As you can see, making sure your pet will be cared for is easy.

But if you want to leave everything to them — the whole shebang —  there can be issues. 

Basically, your disgruntled relatives can (and probably will) dispute the will. 

While they likely won’t be able to snatch the whole fortune back, they can claim “reasonable financial provision”. So, if you don’t want them to drag poor old Fluffy to court, it’s best to leave at least something to your human loved ones.


The long and short of it

So, here it is in a nutshell. You can’t bequeath your dog or cat (or lizard) money in your will. But you can appoint guardians or set up a trust for them instead.

If you do this, maybe don’t leave everything to your pets. After all, what would a dog do with all that money?

A dog whose owner left him her whole estate

Oh, right.