When most of us sit down to make a Will, we worry about the same things. We worry about our spouse and our children, and about how best to take care of them. We think about how to make sure our family business continues growing, who will look after our pets, and who gets the house where we grew up and raised a family.
Unless You’re Luis da Camara, that is.
Da Camara was a Portuguese aristocrat. Childless and, frankly, a bit of a weirdo, he shook off normal conventions and bequeathed his entire estate to 70 names he’d selected at random from his local phone book. Since Wills aren’t much of a tradition in Portugal, and since most of da Camara’s heirs had never once laid eyes on him, a few were sure the whole thing was a hoax.
Until they received a check from his estate for several thousand euros.
So in the spirit of Luis da Camara, here are 5 Will stories that are at times touching, creepy, or plain grotesque. But they’re all completely true.
They say it’s your birthday. Well it’s my birthday too
While most of us remember Robert Louis Stevenson for writing such well-loved classics as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Annie H. Ide remembered him for something completely different. Ides, a close friend of Stevensons’, was born on Christmas day and, during the course of their friendship, had complained to the author about the inconvenience of a December 25th birthday. Stevenson, for his part, was sympathetic. So sympathetic, in fact, that he gave her his own birthday when he died.
Miss Ide, Stevenson wrote, should get all the “rights and privileges in the thirteenth day of November, formerly [his] birthday, now, hereby, and henceforth, the birthday of the said Annie H. Ide, to have, hold, exercise, and enjoy the same in the customary manner, by the sporting of fine raiment, eating of rich meats, and receipt of gifts, compliments, and copies of verse, according to the manner of our ancestors.”
Whether Annie Ide took him up on this is a bit of a mystery. No matter what, we hope she was indeed sporting fine raiment and eating rich meats. That sounds like a proper shindig.
That that, Don Juan, you two-bit hack
Jack Benny was one of the most successful celebrities of the mid 1900’s. He was a celebrated comedian, a beloved actor, and an accomplished violinist, with hits on the radio, in television, and on the big screen. And on top of all that, he was also a classic romantic.
In his Legal Will, Benny left a florist a large sum of money. Its purpose? To send his wife of 47 years, Mary Livingstone, a single long-stemmed red rose every day for the rest of her life. By the time she passed, Mary had received upwards of 3,000.
Which is to say Jack Benny was a class act not just until he died but far after. The same can’t quite be said for our next entry, Leona Helmsley.
How much is that doggy in the window? Twelve million dollars? Never mind then
Leona Helmsley was, by all accounts, a hideous person. Helmsley was one of the 80’s most outsized personalities, famous for a management style that can best be described as “tyrannical” or “cartoonishly abusive.” She was Gordon Gecko in a dress, Mr. Burns in high heels, Donald Trump with marginally better hair. So it’s really no surprise that she used her Will to make a point. And to stick it to her children.
Presumably incapable of keeping human friends, Helmsley was often pictured with her white Maltese, a dog she’d named Trouble. While leaving her children a relative pittance, she left Trouble a full $12 million so that the canine might continue eating Kobe beef and using faberge eggs as chew toys. A judge later reduced the amount to a mere $2 million, citing the earlier figure as “excessive,” after which Trouble, presumably, fainted dramatically in his twelve-room, marbled dog fortress.
The one can of Pringles you should think twice about eating
Unless you’re a product history buff, you’ve likely never heard of Fredric Baur before. But by the time you’re done with the next paragraph, you won’t have that problem again.
Baur was a chemist and a tinkerer who invented freeze dried ice cream, specialized frying oils, and, most famously, the Pringles can. While other folks were content to mash chips into a sack like barbarians, Baur was an orderly man and demanded his salty foodstuffs stacked cleanly in a column. He also demanded, in his Will, that he be cremated and buried in a Pringles can. And in 2008, when he passed away, his children, begrudgingly, obliged.
This makes a Pringles can look positively normal
A political progressive in his time, Bentham was an early advocate for animal rights, equal rights for women, and the decriminalization of homosexual acts. As radical as these views were in the early nineteenth century, portions of Bentham’s Will were even more perplexing.
First, he requested his body dissected during a public anatomy lecture. Then, Bentham provided for his skeleton to be dressed in his clothes, stuffed with hay, and for the whole package to be stored in a wood and glass case. The so-called “Auto-Icon” has undergone several changes—after numerous “student pranks,” Bentham’s real head has been since replaced with a wax replica—and is currently on display at the University College of London. For the college’s 100th and 150th anniversaries, what remains of Jeremy Bentham attended the meeting of the College Council, where he was listed as “present but not voting.”
Most Wills are far more mundane than the stories we’ve shared above. But if there’s one lesson we can all learn from them, it’s this: make your estate plan your own. Without a Will, your estate will be divvied up based on the rules in your state as opposed to the unique way you’d want your family and property taken care of. Visit our Estate Planning Center to get started on yours today.