5 Ingenious Wills Created Mostly For Revenge 0

A skeleton takes his revenge

Death! Suffering! Elaborate old-timey insults! Sure, you can make a will for nice, kind reasons. Support your family. Choose a home for your cat. Give to charities. But why do that, when you can settle some old scores? Stay tuned for five wills that served up a revenge as cold as the grave…

1) The legacy of bitterness

Wellington boots or wellington burts
Unverified sighting of Wellington Burt in the wild.

Michigan lumber tycoon and owner of a pun-worthy name, Wellington Burt died in 1919 with a hefty fortune under his belt (or should we say, tucked into his Wellington Burts?). A multimillionaire philanthropist in life, Burt was expected to make his family and his town very wealthy indeed upon his death.

But it wasn’t to be: reputedly smarting from a nasty family spat, Burt instead left the bulk of his fortune in a trust fund, not to be opened until 21 years after the death of his last grandchild. 

As the years went by, Burt’s six children, seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and 11 great-great grandchildren have all died without seeing a penny. Meanwhile, the trust fund has grown to an estimated $100m. Relatives who finally inherited in 2011 described it as a “legacy of bitterness,” having watched family members pass away still fruitlessly hoping to claim that fortune.

Heinrich Heine on his deathbed
Heinrich Heine reflecting on his choices.

2) The final regret

For 15 years, German essayist and poet Heinrich Heine had a very volatile relationship with his wife, Mathilde. But when he fell ill, she stayed at his bedside to the very end – and received a somewhat ambiguous reward.

Heine left Mathilde a legacy, alright, but only if she remarried. His reasoning? “Because then, at least one man will regret my death.” Ouch.

3) The father-in-law’s revenge

Son-in-laws: can’t live with them, can’t guilt someone into putting shelves up around the house without them. In 1908, Garvey P. White’s used his will to take a parting shot at his daughter’s unfortunate husband:

“Before anything else is to be done, 50 cents is to be given to my son-in-law to enable himself to buy a good strong rope with which to hang himself, and thus rid mankind of one of the most infamous scoundrels that ever roamed this broad land or lived outside a penitentiary.”

One has to wonder what the son-in-law did to deserve it.

Bath Abbey
Not pictured: vengeful bellringers.

4) The bells, the bells

Another disgruntled husband here: Colonel Charles Nash used his will to leave an annuity of $50 to the bellringers of Bath Abbey. 

But there were conditions: the bellringers had to clang out a mournful funerary toll on the anniversary of his marriage. They also had to ring the bells merrily on the anniversary of his death – celebrating his liberation from married life.

5) The deadly legacy

In the wrong hands, a will can be a dangerous thing. One Munich-based gentleman had a seemingly harmless stipulation in his will: the wake had to be held in an upstairs room of his house. 

But when family and friends arrived and gathered around the coffin, the entire floor came down – killing almost everyone present. It later turned out that the man had painstakingly sawed most of the way through the beams of his house. Perhaps he didn’t want to be seen dead in their company.

Beyond mascot takes n otes while sitting in a chair.Make your own vengeful will today

Have your own score to settle? You can make a will today on Beyond in just 15 minutes. It costs just £90, or £135 if you and your partner would like to plan your vengeance together. Start making your will today.

Don’t forget! Pay 20% more for your vengeful will using the offer code VENGEANCEISMINE at checkout – you big meanie.

 

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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.

 

Beware the Curse on Shakespeare’s Grave 0

William Shakespeare grave with curse

Of all the possible ghosts to be haunted by, William Shakespeare would have to be one of the worst. With an epic collection of ye-olde insults (Shakespeare pioneered ‘your mum’ jokes, by the way) and an aptitude for lengthy monologues, the Bard would definitely find a way to make you very, very sorry. 

It’s perhaps for that very reason that scientists examining William Shakespeare’s grave in 2016 were very careful not to disturb his rest. After all, the Shakespeare grave curse is perhaps the most famous in the world. It’s even written on the Bard’s tombstone, to really spell things out for would-be plunderers.

And yet … it seems someone has ignored it.

 

What is written on Shakespeare’s grave?

A quatrain made up of iambic tetrameter couplets, the curse on Shakespeare’s grave is as follows:

“Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.”

Brrr! Spooky. But not actually that unusual.

In Shakespeare’s day, it wasn’t uncommon for graves to be dug up and the bones moved to make room for new burials. Perhaps concerned about starring in a re-enactment of the ‘Yorick’ scene from Hamlet, Shakespeare (as the story goes) penned the verse above to prevent anyone from disturbing his rest.

And up until 2016, it seemed as though the curse had done its job. Keen to respect Shakespeare’s wishes themselves, the scientists even used radar technology to take a gander at his grave, leaving his bones untouched. 

But they made a shocking discovery: Shakespeare’s skull was apparently missing.

 

Who risked William Shakespeare’s grave curse?

We say ‘shocking’ ⁠— but there have been rumours about someone plundering the Bard’s grave over the years. 

So, who was it? A story in Argosy magazine from 1879 may have the answer. The rambling account from ‘A Warwickshire Man’ lays the crime at the door of a young doctor named Frank Chambers. “A wild, rather dashing young fellow,” Chambers supposedly stole the skull with three accomplices in 1794. 

The 17th and 18th centuries saw a lot of body snatching. The heads of famous thinkers were of particular interest to scientific minds of the day. But it seems Shakespeare’s skull was too hot to sell. Unable to find a buyer, Chambers attempted to return it, only to have the skull spirited away by a lackey. 

The account ends with the fate of Shakespeare’s skull unknown. 

 

Where is Shakespeare’s skull now?

It’s still a mystery. Rev. Patrick Taylor of Holy Trinity told reporters that he was “not convinced” that the skull had actually been taken in the first place. And it’s true that the 2016 scan of Shakespeare’s grave wasn’t entirely conclusive. 

Without actually digging Shakespeare up, we’ll never know for certain — but would you risk the curse?

 

Shakespeare’s grave location

If you’d like to visit the grave of William Shakespeare, it can be found in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Entrance is free, but do check the church’s opening times before you go.

Photo credit: Image of Shakespeare’s grave taken by David Jones and used under Creative Commons licence 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.