Mark Williams, of law firm Amba Legal Services Ltd, asks, “Are these the Strangest Wills Ever?”
In the UK we aren’t very good at having a Will drawn up. According to Will Aid fewer than half of UK adults have done so leaving almost millions of people with no formal instructions for what should happen to their possessions on their death.
Perhaps we all think that we are immortal. Or is it just that we’re not creative enough? After all, whilst for some a Will is a chance to leave a thoughtful gesture, for others it could be to show your relatives you preferred the dog to them.
So to motivate you to make your own, here are 5 of the strangest bequests left in Wills:
1) Anonymous donation “to clear the national debt” – A public-spirited donor made a £500,000 bequest to Britain back in 1928, which is now worth more than £350m. Unfortunately, the anonymous donor was very specific about how the money should be spent: it should only be passed on once it is enough to clear the entire national debt. Sadly, the total national debt currently stands at £1.7 trillion and so the country can’t touch the money.
Mark Williams, of Worcestershire based Amba Legal Services, advises “having a professionally drawn up Will ensures your beneficiaries get to enjoy the gifts you have left them”.
2) A daily red rose – US comedian Jack Benny died in 1974 leaving a red rose to be delivered to his widow every day for the rest of her life. “Every day since Jack has gone the florist has delivered one long-stemmed red rose to my home,” his widow Mary Livingstone wrote in a magazine, shortly after his death.
3) The “second-best bed” – Will Shakespeare’s widow Anne Hathaway, was famously snubbed by the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon. In his Will, he left her his “second-best bed” while the vast bulk of his estate he left to his daughter Susanna.
Mark advises: “Today, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, this Will could easily be challenged by Anne because her husband failed to make ‘reasonable financial provision’ for her.”
4) $12m to a dog – In 2004 wealthy hotelier Leona Helmsley left instructions for her $4bn (£3.2bn) fortune to be spent looking after dogs. Her 9 year-old small Maltese dog, “Trouble”, received $12m (£9.6m) in the Will, with her grandchildren either cut out altogether or ordered to visit their father’s grave each year in order to inherit their share. Although a judge later cut Trouble’s inheritance to just $2m (£1.6m), the dog still needed to go into hiding to avoid kidnap and death threats.
5) Wife for a gay son – In 2007 Frank Mandelbaum’s Will left a $180,000 trust fund for his grandchildren. However, an additional clause concerned his son Robert. This said that his children would only inherit a share of the trust if he agreed to marry their mother within six months of their birth. But, Robert is gay and is raising his son Cooper with his husband.
Mark explains that in the England this condition would not be upheld. “Whilst you can legally leave assets directly to beneficiaries contingent on certain events, e.g. ‘on reaching the age of 18’ or on ‘acting as my executor’, these are all within the control of the beneficiary. But making a Will leaving assets contingent on ‘someone else doing something’, will not work because it is ultimately outside of the control of the beneficiary.”
By using Amba Legal Services you can be assured of:
- Professionally drafted legal documents based upon your circumstances, wishes, hopes and concerns.
- Guaranteed fixed prices with no hidden costs.
- Throughout Worcestershire and surrounding areas, we visit you in the comfort of your own home or place of work at a time to suit you, give you any advice you need and take your instructions.
- Peace of mind knowing we have £2 million Professional Indemnity Insurance.
- Our updated legal knowledge as Members of the Institute of Professional Willwriters and compliance with their Code of Practice, which is endorsed by the Trading Standards Institute.
For more information please contact us on 01299 251442
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