10 of the Strangest Will and Testaments

by Rishika Jain12 months ago
Picture 10 of the Strangest Will and Testaments

Most people leave their last will and testament to ensure that their money or assets fall into the right hands in which they intend after death. These will and testaments contain instructions and conditions which need to be fulfilled before they are inherited by their rightful owner. But sometimes these conditions or instructions are so strange and freakish, they will crack you up! Many big celebrities, businessmen, and famous people have created their will with freakish instructions or conditions. Let’s look at 10 such cases of strangest will and testaments.

1 Shakespeare died in April 1616, aged 52. In his will, he left the “second-best bed” for his wife Anne Hathaway, whereas the vast bulk of his estate was inherited by her daughter, Susanna. Today, according to inheritance laws (Provision for Family and Dependants Act of 1975), Anna could claim more property.

Shakespeare
Illustration of William Shakespeare taken from the “Dramatic Works by William Shakespeare” (Russian Translation) issued in Moscow (Image to the left), Painting by Roger Brian Dunn (2010) based on a drawing by Nathaniel Curzon (1708). Image credits: Shutterstock, Shakespeare.org.uk

William Shakespeare, who was the world’s greatest playwrights, died in April 1616, aged 52. He signed his last will and testament on March 25, 1616. He finalized his last will and testament with the help of his lawyer, Francis Collins of Warwick.

He gave the vast bulk of his estate to his daughter Susanna and left the “second-best bed” and “furniture” to his wife with whom he had been married for 34 years and had other children. The “furniture” consisted of curtains and bed covers which form a complete bed. 

In Shakespeare’s time, a bed was considered a luxury item. The “second-best bed” reference in the will of Shakespeare would have been their actual marriage bed. However, under England’s medieval common law, a widow was entitled to one-third of his late husband’s estate.

Although today this will could be easily challenged, and Anne could certainly claim more property because her husband’s will failed to make reasonable financial provisions under the Provision for Family and Dependants Act of 1975. (1, 2)

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2 Heinrich “Henry” Heine was a German poet who died in 1856. He left his property to his wife, but on the condition that she has to remarry so “there will be at least one man who will regret his death.” Today, this condition could be easily sidestepped by the wife.

Heinrich Henry
Christian Johann Heinrich Heine was a German poet, writer, and literary critic (Image to the left), Image is used for representational purposes only. Image credits: Shutterstock, pixabay.com

A German poet named Heinrich “Henry” Heine died in 1856, and with the help of his will, he took the last chance to insult his wife, Matilda.

He left his entire property to his wife, but on one condition that his wife would only get his property when she has married again because he wanted “there will be at least one man who will regret his death.” A strange joke, wasn’t it? 

These types of conditions are good for fun, but they are not so good to be applied in reality. Although today, this joke can go wrong because if Henry would have not made any further provisions, then his wife could easily get away with this condition by disclaiming Henry’s gift.

As Henry had no children, so under the law in force, the whole property of Henry would go to Matilda without any conditions. (Source)

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3 Wellington Burt, a Michigan millionaire, died in 1919 and wrote in his will that his enormous wealth would not be passed on until 21 years after his last surviving grandchild was dead. His granddaughter died in 1989, and the 21-year countdown ended in November 2010. His estate was estimated to be $110 million and was regarded as “Legacy of Bitterness.”

Wellington Burt
Photographic portrait of Wellington R. Burt (1831-1919), Wellington Burt Mansion. Image credits: mlive.com via Wikimedia.org, emmanuelope.wordpress.com

Around 12 people discovered that they are the beneficiaries of the strange and fortunate. A Michigan millionaire, Wellington Burt, died in 1919. He had made his wealth in the iron and lumber industries. He died at the age of 87, and in his will, he mentioned that his enormous wealth would not be passed on until 21 years after the death of his last surviving grandchild. Burt’s last surviving grandchild died in 1989, and the 21-year countdown began and finally ended in November 2010.

Burt’s wealth, estimated to be around $100- to $110-million, was distributed between 12 of his descendants 92 years after Burt’s death. This will was regarded as the “Legacy of Bitterness.” After Burt’s death, his relatives tried to break the trust in court by claiming that his mental condition was not stable when he created his last will and testament. Wellington Burt was a wise and foxy old man who knew exactly what he was doing. (1, 2)

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4 Frank Mandelbaum’s will was read in 2007. He left his $180,000 trust fund for his grandchildren, but there was one additional clause that his grandchild will only inherit their share if his son Robert will marry his child’s mother within six months of their birth. The only problem was Robert was gay and is raising his son with his husband.

Frank Mandelbaum
Frank Mandelbaum (Image to the left), Robert Mandelbaum. Image credits: fold3, MySpace via dailymail.co.uk

Frank Mandelbaum, a New York City businessman, died at the age of 73 in 2007. When his will was read, it was mentioned that his $180,000 trust fund would be inherited by his grandchildren.

However, he had one additional clause for his son Robert Mandelbaum who is also a Manhattan Criminal Court judge, and that was his grandchild will only inherit his share if Robert will get married to the mother of his child within six months of his birth.

The only problem was that Robert was gay and is now living with his husband and his child. Robert’s father wanted to marry him to a woman That’s the reason he put this clause in his will.

However, Robert and his husband Johnathan O’Donnell had a baby boy through surrogacy named Cooper, and they got married in 2011. However, Frank Mandelbaum’s grandchildren who would be born after his death will receive his inheritance of $180,000 – all except Cooper. (1, 2)

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5 Around 70 strangers from a Lisbon phone directory got lucky when a Portuguese aristocrat, Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara, wrote his will and chose 70 random people from the phone directory to leave his considerable fortune to them.

Lisbon
A view of Lisbon where 70 people became heirs out of the blue. Image credit: Deensel via Wikimedia.org

 A Portuguese aristocrat, Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Câmara, was a rich loner but with few friends and no children of his own. When he was writing his will, he asked a Portuguese notary to pick up the Lisbon phone directory and randomly pick 70 lucky people to be his heirs.

After his death, those 70 people were contacted out of the blue by lawyers that they can claim a share of their fortune. He decided to give 7,000 euros to each beneficiary. Although these 70 beneficiaries couldn’t believe at first that luck had struck upon them, they all gladly accepted the money. (1, 2)

Also Read:
10 Billionaires That Went From Riches to Rags

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