Read on to discover people who had to have one last laugh at normalcy by writing some strange wills, from the recently departed to centuries-old names, there are plenty here.
Ah, the bard. The man who wrote famous love stories like Romeo and Juliet, historical plays like Henry V, and tragedies like Romeo and Juliet. For most of his life, he was married to Anne Hathaway (no, not that one). It's no surprise Shakespeare was married – have you read his sonnets? The guy knew how to spin a verse. Yet when he died, he left his wife a rather strange gift.
He wanted her to receive his...second-best bed. Not even his best bed. His second-best bed. Why would ol' Will make this request? Perhaps it was the matrimonial bed, which held special significance for the couple, or his best bed was to be his deathbed, and he didn't want Anne sleeping where he died.
As a businesswoman and convicted felon, Helmsley had a nickname: The Queen of Mean. Her flamboyant personality and reputation for tyrannical behavior followed her all her life, and after she got arrested for tax evasion, her famous quote “We don't pay taxes; only the little people pay taxes” also started following her around.
Her priorities were also skewed when it came to her will, which had plenty to give out as a rich hotel owner. She left ten million dollars to her brother, five million dollars to her multiple grandsons, and the rest (twelve million) to her dog, a Maltese pup named Trouble.
He's the man we can thank for Christmas. When he wrote A Christmas Carol, Christmas celebrations weren't in vogue, and it was his triumphant and life-changing book that flipped the switch in England, setting off a culture change that still hasn't reversed. His odd life and unique sensibilities produced plenty of other notable works such as David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities, and his will also stands out.
He demanded that all mourners attending his services would not be allowed to wear scarves, cloaks, black bows, long hatbands or, as he put it, any other “revolting absurdity.” Come on, people. Smile.
No magician, illusionist, or escape artist has gotten as much fame as Houdini – his name has become code for someone who can't be tied down. There's another code associated with him, however. Toward the end of his life, he became interested in the spiritual and the afterlife, attending seances with his wife.
In his will, he left a code for his wife – if she was able to contact him after his death, he would give the code to prove it was really him. Every year on the date of his death (Halloween), she held seances, but was apparently never able to contact him. Which, let's be real, shocker.
While the man had a complex named after him, even though he wasn't all that short. He was average for his day, but differences in measuring formats made the English think he was shorter, which they played up for politics. Yet he's still remembered as a little shorty, and he definitely had his eccentricities.
In his last will and testament, for example, he requested that his head be shaved, and his hair be divided among friends. Now there's a keepsake that is sure to raise some eyebrows. We wonder how much hair each person got. Were these four people? Or was this a hundred people each getting a single strand of worn-out hair?
He's the man who brought science-fiction into the public eye with "Star Trek," and his guiding hand made it possible for viewers and fans to see the stars in ways we had never imagined. Of course, Roddenberry wanted his final resting place to be beyond the surly bonds of Earth.
He requested that he “boldly go where no man has gone before.” He wanted his ashes scattered in space, and he got his final wish. After he died in 1997 his ashes got taken up to space via a satellite and were released. He's still up there, somewhere.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Known as one of the greatest actors of his generation, Hoffman knew the value of hard work. For this reason, he didn't want his children turning into “trust fund kids,” and so he left everything to his girlfriend instead. In addition, he stipulated that his son Cooper should be raised in three different cities: New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
Why you might ask? We don't know why. Maybe he wanted the boy to have a rounded education, or maybe he just hated Los Angeles. One way or the other, it happened, which means Hoffman is smiling down from wherever he is.
Marilyn Monroe is a name that may never be forgotten. She was one of the most legendary actors of her time, and she still inspires countless young women to push themselves to higher and higher heights. Though she went young, she had already accumulated a large fortune.
Instead of leaving her riches to her family, however, her will stipulated that it should all go to Lee Strasberg, her acting coach. Every single one of her personal effects remained in Lee's basement until he too passed away. She must have really liked him. Or disliked him, since it seems like a hassle.
John B. Kelly
John B. Kelly, a three-time gold medalist, was a practical man. His big success led to his daughter, the legendary Grace Kelly, having the spotlight on her from an early age, which led to her success at Hollywood, and her love life success as well: she married a prince of Monaco and was thus a real-life princess.
In John B. Kelly's will, he wrote a special request right to her, straight from his practical nature. He asked that she “not bankrupt the Principality of Monaco with the bills about her clothing.” Nobody but a dad could give such good advice in such a backhanded way.
When this famous angel-faced actress finally left our world, she left everything to her son, Redmond Fawcett O'Neal. She also left some to her father, her nephew, and even her ex, but one notable name was left off the list: husband Ryan O'Neal. It shouldn't be surprising, based on what rumors about O'Neal have been floating around.
It's been said that he was violent and manipulative, and the details included in Fawcett's will seem to point to these facts, though of course, it doesn't say anything outright. It must have been a huge slap in the face to O'Neal, though if the rumors are true, he certainly deserved it.
Janis Joplin was all about life. Her music, and her lifestyle, showed off energy and movement, and it didn't end when she stopped moving in 1970. Her electric stage presence had people partying at all of her concerts, but she also wanted a party at her favorite pub after she died.
This is why, in her will, she left two and a half grand for an all-night party. This famous singer probably had lots of friends – would that much money cover all of it? Don't worry about it. $2,500 from 1970 is worth almost seventeen thousand dollars today. More than enough for one last big bash.
A genius fashion designer might not have the most high-profile life, but a good one – like Alexander McQueen – is going to accumulate plenty of dough if his designs see enough play. So who did McQueen leave his fortune to? The models that he worked with the most? His romantic partners?
His children, perhaps? Well, if he had any, they might have gotten some cash, but the most interesting part of this fashion designer's will was that he left seventy-five thousand dollars to care for his dogs. This money went for housing, feeding, grooming, and training, and more, until the dogs too passed away.
Elenor E. Ritchey
While fashion designer Alexander McQueen might have left $75,000 to care for his dogs after they passed, rich heiress Eleanor E. Ritchey took it a step further. Actually, a lot of steps further. A marathon further. When she died in 1968, she left her entire four-point-five million dollar fortune to her dogs.
How could dogs possibly use that much money, which about equals thirty-three and a half million dollars in today's money? The answer is simple. Ritchey had a lot of dogs. Far too many dogs. We're looking at somewhere in the realm of a hundred and fifty dogs. Ritchey, why did you have so many dogs?
Most people request a coffin for when they die. Some people want to be cremated. Others want to be launched into space. But Fred Baur, the founder of Pringles, decided he didn't want his final resting place to be any of these traditional options. He did request cremation, but instead of a handsome wooden box or fancy urn, he wanted to be buried in a Pringles can.
Not, like, a big special one. Just a normal one. His family complied with the request, but what flavor do you think they chose? Hopefully, it was a classic and not something like (shivers) salt and vinegar.
William Randolph Hearst
The magazine mogul and silver miner collected one of the most legendary fortunes we've ever seen. Think about it this way: he paid to disassemble, ship to America, and reassemble an entire castle. As such, he had lots of women trying to prove that their children were Heart's children for a piece of that huge, silver pie.
Hearts wrote into his will that anyone who could prove he or she was a child of Hearst would be given a shiny dollar. Hearst died in 1951, which means that the dollar is now worth about ten dollars. So, they got that going for them, at least.
Singer Dusty Springfield had a couple of interesting requests for when she passed away. And, just like a couple of other people on this list, they all had to do with her beloved pet. In this case, it was her pet cat, Nicholas. Dusty stipulated that Nicholas would be fed imported baby food, would have an indoor treehouse built for him and that every night Nicholas would fall asleep to one of Dusty's albums.
Finally, she wanted the cat's sleeping space to be lined with Dusty's old nightgown and pillow, and she wanted him to get married to a female cat belonging to one of her friends.
Some members of this list left us far too soon when they still had plenty of good to offer the world. Tupac, one of the rap genre's greatest sons, left us in 1996, and while he didn't have the chance to write a true and proper will, he still snuck one of his last requests into the song “Black Jesuz”: “Cremated, last wishes n****s smoke my ashes.”
Without a doubt, it's one of the strangest requests on this list, but believe it or not, a few of his friends actually did it. They cremated Tupac, mixed his ashes with marijuana, and got their puff on. Did it...change the flavor?
Once a member of the Beastie Boys, always a member of the Beastie Boys. Adam “MCA” Yauch wanted to make sure that nobody could profit off of his image or music after he passed, which he did in 2012 from parotid cancer. While the legal validity of the will has been called into question, so far the other members of the Beastie Boys have stood by Yauch, and none of the songs have been used in advertising since his death.
Yauch and the other boys had always maintained their artistic control even while working with big labels, and it's this ideal that continues after Yauch's death.
Famous actor and comedian Mickey Rooney – infamous for his portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi, but famous for roles in "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World," "Babes in Arms," and even "Night at the Museum" – died without much in his bank account. A mere eighty thousand dollars waited for his wife and children when he passed away in 2014. But, according to his will, they were to get none of it.
The family was furious and ended up contesting the will, but lost. Only one member of the Rooney family got anything out of Mickey's death: his stepson and caretaker, Mark Aber. If you're wondering why Rooney didn't have much, it was due to a lack of royalty payments, as well as financial mismanagement and elder abuse by a different stepson.
You may not know who Jeremy Bentham is, but you should. This British lawyer and philosopher accomplished many things during his time on Earth, between the years of 1748 and 1832, but the thing that most people remember him for his incredible strange will.
While the will included all of the normal things, it also said that he wanted his body to be preserved, stuffed with hay, and put on display in the University College London. It was done, and incredibly his body is still on display. Dr. Thomas Smith, the executor of Bentham's will, personally stuffed Bentham. No, that's not a euphemism.
Most of the wills on this list are funny, or humorous, or just kind of strange. John Bowman's will is for a different reason. You see, this tanning scion and Vermont socialite had a beloved wife and daughter who died before he did. Bowman left fifty thousand dollars behind to employ staff in his big 21-room mansion and mausoleum, just in case his wife and daughter came back to life and needed to be taken care of.
Servants and employees dutifully carried out this stipulation until 1950, when the trust money ran out. His family never rose from the dead, and neither did he.
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw – famous author and playwright – had a b-e-e-f with the alphabet. He was thought to dislike it so much, that when he died in 1950, he left behind a significant sum, dedicated to the creation of a new alphabet. His few requirements were that it had to be phonetic, and be forty characters long. By the end of 1950, the Shaw Alphabet had been created.
It utilizes three types of letters: tall, deep, and short. Short letters are vowels, liquids (such as r and l), and nasals. Tall letters are voiceless consonants (save a few exceptions). Tall letters rotated a hundred and eighty degrees become a deep letter, representing a corresponding voiced consonant.
If you like Marvel comics, the MCU, or any of the Marvel characters, then you have Mark Gruenwald to thank. He was the executive editor of both Captain American and Iron Man, and held hundreds of smaller jobs within other sectors of Marvel during his time with the superhero comic giant.
So great was his love for the industry in general that when he died, he stipulated that he was to be cremated, and his ashes were to be mixed with the ink used to print comic books. This was done, and now Gruenwald is part of a paperback compilation of...Squadron Supreme. Come on, not even Fantastic Four?
You may not know the name Ed Headrick, but you know his most famous creation. Chances are, no matter how old you are, you've spent time playing with a Frisbee, which Headrick came up with when he saw a few youths tossing a tin pie plate back and forth. It didn't exactly take a genius to come up with the Frisbee, is what we're saying.
Headrick considered the Frisbee “a religion,” and asked for his ashes to be mixed with a set of limited-edition Frisbees. You wouldn't be reading about it if it didn't happen, and since Headrick only died in 2010, it's still possible to find these...unique items.
While British millionaire Gloria Bechel led a normal life – as much as a British millionaire does, at least – but one thing about her tends to stand out. She really, really loved Cantonese food. She loved one restaurant in particular so much that she left almost her entire fortune, to the tune of about ten million pounds, to the restaurant when she died.
Her family disputed the will – you have to admit, it's an odd one – but the courts ruled in favor of the restaurant. Notice that we said the restaurant, not the owners. No doubt their lives were enriched, but it's not like she gifted them the money personally.
One of the founding fathers of the United States of America was also a father to a few children, and in his will, he left a portrait frame, and a specific request, to his daughter Sarah. The request was that she “not engage the expensive, vain, and useless pastime of wearing jewels.” Ben was never one to mince words.
But why give his daughter such an odd request? The portrait frame he left her contained over four hundred diamonds – no doubt he wanted to avoid her plundering the frame. According to the history we know, Sarah Franklin Bache ignored his request and tore the frame to shreds for the diamonds.
Patricia O'Neill had plenty of dosh to spread around, being the daughter of the Countess of Kenmore. Did she leave it to her family? Her friends? Did she have her ashes mixed into a portrait of herself, or stipulate that her family had to enter her perfectly-preserved body into a triathlon? None of these, unfortunately.
Instead, she simply left the entirety of her forty million pound fortune, the equivalent of more than fifty-three million dollars, to her pet Chimp Kalu. Unfortunately for Kalu, O'Neill's financial state tanked thanks to bad investments and management, meaning there isn't much left for him once she passes – O'Neill has to exist on gifts from friends.
Charles Vance Miller
We kind of wish we knew more about Charles Vance Miller. He seems like a hoot. This Canadian attorney's will stipulated that in the decade following his death (which occurred in 1926), whichever Toronto woman produced the most offspring would acquire a large sum of money from his estate.
Four different women – each with nine children during that time span whoa – won the contest, receiving about $125,000 each. Nowadays that many kids for that amount wouldn't be worth it, but in 1936, that was equivalent to one million, eight-hundred thousand in USD today. That's enough to cover everything, including college.
As a Californian prune rancher, Thomas Shewbridge wasn't all that well known during his life, and that's okay. His will, of all things, brought him into the public eye when he left twenty-nine thousand stock shares in the local electric company to his two dogs, Mac and George.
For the most part, this didn't really mean that much, but since they were major shareholders, it did mean that the dogs had to be present for the board of directors' meetings. The two dogs also inherited an estate worth almost $250,000. The dogs weren't very interested in the meetings, but that's not because they're dogs. It's just because shareholder meetings are boring.
Lawyer T.M. Zink might have the strangest request on this entire list. When he died, he left a trust fund of fifty thousand dollars to create a library, but not just any library. He wanted a library totally devoid of women. No books, or art, made by women (easy), no decorations by women (might be tough), and no female employees (impossible).
Zink's own daughter contested the will and was actually successful. The womanless library was never founded, no matter what Zink's reasoning was. Was he a misogynist? Or did he just want a library that actually had books worth reading? We may never know.
James Kidd, Arizona hermit, and miner, disappeared in 1949 and was declared legally dead in 1956. His handwritten will was found in 1963, and it stipulated that his entire estate, worth around $275,000 at the time, should “go in a research for some scientific proof of a soul of a human body which leaves at death.”
Courts received more than a hundred petitions for the inheritance but dismissed all of them. In 1971, the money was awarded to the American Society for Psychical Research in New York City, though it has as of yet failed to scientifically prove the existence of the soul.
Sanborn, an American hatmaker, bequeathed his body to science when he died in 1871. One Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., a professor of anatomy at Harvard Medical School, and one of Holmes's colleagues received the body. Was it for research?
No, not really. Instead, Sanborn wanted to be drums. He stipulated that two drums were to be made out of Sanborn's skin and given to a friend, on the condition that every June 17th at dawn, the friend would play “Yankee Doodle” at Bunker Hill to commemorate the anniversary of the famous Revolutionary War battle. A true patriot, even after death. The rest of his body was to be made into fertilizer to contribute to the growth of an American elm.
A 19th-century Columbus, Ohio, man named Jonathan Jackson was a true animal lover. His will stipulated that “It is man's duty as lord of animals to watch over and protect the lesser and feebler.” When he died in 1880, he left money in order to create a cat house.
No, not that kind of cat house. It was really, truly, a place where cats could enjoy all the creature comforts of life, such as large bedrooms, dining halls, an auditorium to listen to live accordion music, an exercise room, and a special roof designed for climbing that wouldn't risk any of his feline friends while they were seeing the great outdoors.
Marie Curie was born in Russian-occupied Poland in 1867, but moved to Paris at the age of twenty-four to study science. She was a pioneer in the field of radioactivity, and won a Nobel prize in two different fields – physics and chemistry, the first person to do so.
When she died, the only thing in her estate worth much was a gram of pure radium, which she then gifted to the University of Paris, on the condition that her daughter Irene Curie be allowed to use the gram for any of her scientific research. Element 96, Curium, was named in honor of Marie and her husband, Pierre.
Sandra West was an oil heiress and socialite, and she loved the luxuries of life. Even when she died, she wanted to be buried in the best. The Californian not only asked to be buried in her favorite lace nightgown, but she also requested her final resting place to be her beloved powder-blue Ferrari. “[W]ith the seat slanted comfortably.”
Her family obliged her request (no doubt they got plenty from the will), and they even poured cement over the vehicle. This to ensure that thieves wouldn't dig it up and get their hands on the classic car of cool.
For a lot of us, the idea of spending eighty million dollars could almost be a daunting task. From big houses to expensive cars to fancy clothes, you could keep spending and still have a hard time getting rid of it all. And if humans have a problem, how much harder will it be for a dog?
Carlotta Liebenstein, a canine-loving Countess from Germany, left her beloved dog Gunther IV that huge eight-figure sum when she passed away in 1992. How come we don't ever hear about Gunther from the tabloids? Well, German Shepherds have a lifespan of nine to thirteen years, but somehow he's still around. Unless, of course, he's just passing the money down to identical sons and daughters.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Though he wrote about a life of luxury when he wrote his famous novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald wasn't able to enjoy the finer things in life during his later years. He hardly had a cent to his name when he died in 1940.
It was for this reason that he adjusted his will to change his funeral arrangements from “in keeping with my station in life” to “the cheapest.” How could one of America's most famous writers have fallen on such hard times? Well, he only made about eight thousand dollars on The Great Gatsby. He was so short of money that he sometimes worked as a roof repairer.
New York real estate mogul loved his daughters, and so he left each of them about twenty million dollars in his will...but that money came with some strings. They had to live up to his standards, with tasks including getting a degree from a recognized university and getting married to a man who had signed all rights to the inheritance away.
In short, they had to marry for love. If the daughters chose to work, they would receive triple what their tax statements show at the end of the year from the trust, and if they chose to spend their time as mothers, they would receive three percent of the trust each year, provided the children were born in wedlock.
Robin Williams was one of the most famous comedians and voices out there, but despite him being the voice of the Genie in Disney's Aladdin, he received only a fraction of the money the movie earned. Williams made sure that Disney didn't undervalue his talents again.
When he found out that Disney was thinking about using outtakes from his performance in an original animated feature, he wrote a stipulation into his will that they wouldn't be allowed to use the material until a quarter of a century after his passing. Since his death came in 2014, that means it won't be used until at least 2039.
As the daughter of American Tobacco Company founder Buck Duke, Doris Duke was a famous heiress who was reportedly renowned because she never smiled whenever someone took her picture. However, she wasn't devoid of emotion – in fact, it turns out that she had plenty of heart. Her will helped to fund an eponymous charity that is now estimated to be worth over a billion dollars.
The foundation was established to improve the quality of people's lives through grants supporting the performing arts, environmental research, medical research, and more. She also left an immense amount of money – about a hundred million dollars, to her dogs, which is pretty standard by now.
While this lawyer was initially renowned because he represented O.J. Simpson at his famous murder trial, this man's family name has shifted and changed to become the top of the line when it comes to reality TV and fame for fame's sake.
However, despite the fame and fortune everyone in the family has by now, Robert left nothing to his son Rob, his daughters Kourtney, Khloe, and Kim, or even their mother Kris a single penny. Instead, all of it went to his widow Ellen Pierson. The Kardashians disputed the will, but the court found it to be entirely correct and above board.
He was the King of Rock and Roll, but Elvis didn't have as much in his bank account by the end of his life as you might guess. A mere five million dollars, according to reports. That doesn't even take into account the many debts he'd accumulated over the years.
In his will, Presley named his father Vernon, his grandmother Minnie Mae, and his only child Lisa Marie as the beneficiaries of his will. Strangely, it's his ex-wife Priscilla who is credited with growing his estate to a figure of a hundred million dollars, thanks to places like Graceland, and judicious licensing of his many famous songs.
Following his passing in 2020, this famous actor and high school cheerleader donated the majority of his sixty-one million dollars to his eponymous foundation. Among the beneficiaries from the foundation include the Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Westwood's Sinai Temple, and St. Lawrence University.
The foundation was built on the idea of helping those who cannot help themselves. Oddly, Kirk's well-known son and fellow actor Michael didn't receive anything in the will, though Michael probably doesn't mind that much – he's worth about three hundred million dollars himself. The elder Douglas and his wife Anne spent much of their lives donating to these and other worthy causes.
Martin Luther King Jr.
It's little surprise Martin Luther King Jr. didn't have a will, seeing as he was assassinated at the young age of thirty-nine. Because of this, the various members of his family, including his wife and children, have become locked in a bitter dispute over his fortune, such as it is, and his legacy.
The family ended up selling both his personal possessions and intellectual property as a result, in order to pay off debts. It's amazing how much King was able to accomplish during his short life, though becoming rich wasn't one of them – and that might be for the best.
Oprah is, of course, still with us, but she's still revealed the details of their final wishes. Most of her money – to the tune of three billion dollars – will go to numerous charity organizations and foundations. However, her family is still getting some.
Specifically, she's going to leave almost thirty million dollars to her five beloved dogs. Golden retrievers Luke and Layla, cocker spaniel Sadie, and springer spaniels Sunny and Lauren will all have plenty of dough to last themselves through the end of their long, happy lives, should they live longer than their world-famous master.
While Eric Cowell is the son of multi-millionaire media mogul Simon Cowell, but the youngest will have to earn his own fortune. Simon, who is famous for being a recording executive, a caustic judge on American Idol , and some other things, probably.
He's told Esquire magazine that he plans to leave his entire fortune – somewhere around five hundred million dollars – to charity. He's even said that he doesn't believe in passing on from one generation to another. He will simply leave a legacy of making fun of people who think they can sing, and giving lots of money to charity. A good man.
One of the world's richest men has a personal fortune of eighty-five billion dollars, but that doesn't mean that his children will be able to settle back on their laurels and do nothing with their lives. The Microsoft founder has pledged to leave most of his fortune to the foundation that he set up with his wife Melinda.
He will, however, pay for his children's college tuition. As he once told the television show This Morning, “It's not a favor to kids to have them have huge sums of wealth.” That means his children will have to find their own ways in life, though they still have a step up compared to others.
Elton John and his partner David Furnish are planning to give away much of their $260 million fortune to various charities. Their two sons Zachary and Elijah, born through surrogacy, will be left with a notable amount, but the famous singer-songwriter told the newspaper The Daily Mirror that he doesn't want to make things too easy for his children.
“You have to have some semblance of normality, some respect for money, some respect for work.” It means that while Zach and Eli will still have the Elton John name to draw from, they'll still have to earn their own fortunes.
This legendary songwriter and guitar player passed away at the young age of twenty-seven, and like most of the other members of the 27 club, he didn't have the chance to write a will for himself. After Hendrix died, an attorney managed his fortune for twenty years, until the musician's dad stepped in and sued for his son's music rights.
Eventually, Hendrix's eighty-million dollar estate went to his father, and then to his adopted sister. The estate is now worth an estimated $175 million, which has got to be something that comes up often during family disputes. Hey, at least he had something to disperse when he passed.