As a nation, we’re not good at drawing up wills. In fact, 64 percent of adults have failed to write up a will. Perhaps as a nation, we’re putting it off, or perhaps we are simply not imaginative at drawing up wills.
While most people write a will to look after their loved ones after death, some people use it as an opportunity to make a point, or simply to have a bit of a laugh by asking specific, and well, absurd directives.
No matter how bizarre will conditions and provisions may appear to be, courts will often go pretty far to enforce them.
Here are seven unusual uses for your will you probably have never considered:
1. To throw a party
The renown rock and blues singer Janis Joplin changed her will right before her death in 1970, gifting her friends $2,500 on the condition that they spend it on an epic party at her favourite bar in San Anselmo in her memory. Her friends threw the bash three weeks after her death.
2. To get even
When Samuel Bratt died in 1960, he left his wife $550,000 with one condition. While alive, Samuel’s wife never allowed him to smoke his favourite cigars. So, he used his will to get even. Samuel’s wife had to smoke five cigars every day in order to receive her inheritance.
3. To speak to the dead
The escape artist Harry Houdini gave his wife a coded list of random words and told her to hold annual seances so that he could prove it was possible to speak with the dead. After Houdini died in 1926, his wife held these seances on his death anniversary for ten years to see whether Houdini, the Man No Jail Could Hold, could indeed escape from death. She never once heard a peep from Harry.
4. To make sure dinner is ready
Vermont tanner John Bowman believed that his entire family would be reincarnated together when he died. When he died in 1891, his will provided a $50,000 trust fund for the maintenance of his twenty-one room mansion and mausoleum. The will required dinner was to be prepared for him and his family every night after he died in case they should all return. This arrangement was carried out until 1950 when the trust money ran out.
5. To get sympathy
In 1841, the poet Heinrich Heine married Eugenie Mirat, an uneducated, boorish, and incredibly vain clerk in Paris. Heine gifted all his property to his wife upon one condition: she must remarry after his death. In his explanation, he stated, “because then there will be at least one man who will regret my death.” The German poet died in 1856.
6. To create a competition
Charles Vance Miller was an attorney and lifelong bachelor living in Toronto. When Miller died in 1926, he promised $500,000 in his will to whichever Toronto woman birthed the most children in the 10 years following his death. The contest was coined “The Great Stork Derby”. Four ladies won in a tie, each had born nine children, receiving $125,000 a piece.
7. To build a house for cats
Animal lover Jonathan Jackson died around 1880. His will stipulated that part of his fortune was to be used to construct a house just for cats, complete with a dining hall, an auditorium to listen to live accordion music, an exercise room, and a specially designed roof for them to play on without endangering any of their nine lives.
Whether you want to cover the basics or leave a little extra, a will is your personal document is which you can be as creative as you wish. However, some certain requests may not be enforced in the courts. It is always advised to check with a professional whether a request could invalidate your will. The last thing you want to leave is a legacy of disagreement among loved ones who will challenge what you left in your will.
Have a bizarre request to put in your will? Call 0800 088 4670 to speak to the will experts at Damsons Future Planning!