Everyone knows you need a will, and everyone knows why. We could use this space to scare you into wanting to hire us to write your will, and we could remind you that Amicus Law has the highest quality work at the lowest price in town — guaranteed. Or we could just use the rest of this space to showcase the weirdest last will and testament requests of all time. We’ll do the latter.
The Five Strangest Last WIll and Testament Provisions
#5: Charles Dickens Picks the Wrong Executor
Used to getting what he wanted in life, Charles Dickens was not so lucky in death. His will contained the provision that he be buried in “an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner” and that mourners at his funeral “wear no scarf, cloak, black bow, long hatband, or other such revolting absurdity.” Well, looks like Charles should have picked someone else to be the executor (the person who makes sure that the deceased’s wishes are carried out). Because his wishes were ignored — in a BIG way. His funeral was a national event, complete with mourners decked out in full, obnoxious, funeral regalia. Ooops.
#4: Houdini And His Secret Seance Words
It should come as no surprise that Houdini was into mysticism — he was, after all, arguably the world’s greatest magician at the time of his death in 1926. Houdini became deeply involved with seances and spiritualism after the death of his mother. Houdini’s wife was also an avid fan of the dark and mysterious side of life (and death). In order to prove his supernatural presence to his wife after death, Houdini’s will contained 10 secret words that he would communicate to his wife during a yearly Halloween seance. For 10 years after his death, his wife faithfully held the annual seance. Alas, Houdini failed to reveal himself during the seances, and she finally gave up in 1936.
#3: Benjamin Franklin Tells His Daughter to Refrain from the Useless Fashion of Wearing Jewels
When Ben Franklin died in 1790 at the age of 84, his last will and testament encouraged his daughter to refrain from engaging in “the expensive, vain and useless pastime of wearing jewels.” See, at the time of his death, Franklin was one of the most famous and admired men in the world. Franklin, as a former ambassador to France, was given a portrait of King Louis XVI that was encased in a diamond studded frame — and we’re talking serious amounts of diamonds — over 400 adorned the frame. We’ll say that again in case the magnitude escaped you: 400 diamonds were on this frame. That’s a lot of diamonds. Franklin made the request in his will to prevent his daughter from removing the diamonds from the frame in order to make jewelry for herself and her daughters. Smart guy, that Franklin.
#2: William Shakespeare Leaves His Wife His “Second-Best Bed”
And . . . that’s it. Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, received his “second-best bed.” The rest of his estate went to one of his daughters. Yep, that’s right . . . he cut out everyone else. To be fair, the law at the time of Shakespeare’s death provided for a man’s widow and unmarried daughters. So, presumably, Shakespeare didn’t think he needed to stipulate to much else. It’s always best to be certain, though, and the best way to be certain is to write your will with the help of an attorney. We couldn’t resist the plug — sorry.
#1: TM Zink And His “Womanless Library”
TM Zink was a lawyer from Iowa who died in 1930 with the last wish that his trust funds be used to create a “womanless library.” The words “No Women Admitted” were to be prominently displayed by each entrance. Additionally, the library was to contain no books, works of art, or decorations by women. As he explained in his will, “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 experience with women, observations of them, and study of all literatures and philosophical works.” His family, presumably endowed with much less misogyny than Mr. Zink, successfully challenged the will, and his womanless library was never built.
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