Strange Probates – Where there’s a Will, there’s a way.

In the world of probate practice, I’ve learned NOT to be surprised by the things I read in Wills. Dead people leave strange instructions for many reasons, including complicated family relationships, emotional attachments to particular items, the desire to influence survivors’ actions (which I call, “I’m in control, even though I’m dead”).  For as long as the legal system has given people power to control their stuff after they die, people have left behind strange and bizarre instructions.

Napoleon ordered that after his death his head should be shaved and his hair should be divided among his friends. Jack Benny requested that his wife should receive one long stemmed rose each day for the rest of her life after passed. She received more than 3000 before her own death.  Harry Houdini left his wife a secret code and asked that a seance be held each Halloween so he could communicate with her. George Bernard Shaw thought that the English language desperately needed help so he left 100,000 pounds to develop a new 40-letter English alphabet.  Perhaps one of my favorites is the lumber baron, Wellington R. Burt, who died in 1919 as one of the ten richest men in America. He ordered that his entire estate should be held in trust and that no distribution to anyone would be made until twenty-one years after his last grandchild passed away.  His fortune pretty much sat for 92 years until 2010 when more than $100,000,000.00 (that’s right, one-hundred million dollars) was inherited by twelve surviving descendants.

So here is a challenge question for anyone who might want to participate…

If you were drafting a Will today, and wanted to make one really strange request, order, or gift, what would it be?


Johanna R Kirk – (attorney/lawyer) Kirk Law Office, LLC 1418 Tower Ave #6; Superior, WI 54880