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General, Law

Last wills of the rich and famous

Author: Christopher Green

Estate and Civil Litigation Wills and Estate Planning

You would have thought that a Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court would have crafted a workmanlike will, wouldn’t you?

Alas, Chief  Justice Warren Burger instead succeeded in costing his estate thousands of dollars in unnecessary taxes and legal expenses, by penning an overly simple one page, three paragraph will. He failed to give his executors any directions at all.

Now, on the other end of the pendulum, if you ever have the chance to visit University College in London, you can witness the results of a lawyer giving too explicit a set of directions to his executor. On display there is the body of British lawyer Thomas Bentham, preserved, stuffed with hay,  and on public display, in strict accordance with his will.

Executors may be called upon to do the darnest things- Fred Baur, the inventor of Pringles, tasked his with the job of using a Pringles can, instead of an urn for the ashes,  and William Shakespeare’s executor has the awkward task of explaining to  a grieving Anne Hathaway that she had been bequeathed only the immortal bard’s “second best bed’. Napoleon’ wanted his executor to shave his head and divide the hair amongst assorted relatives, while  Janice Joplin’s executor got luck, only needing to host an all night booze-up to celebrate her passing.

Making provision for one’s pets is pretty commonplace, although heiress Eleanor Richey went a mite over the top, allotting over $4 million to care for her 150 dogs,( although Leona Hemsley topped that with a $12 million trust for her dog) and singer Dusty Springfield tried to micro-mange her cat’s care- specifying  imported baby food, and indoor treehouse, a sound track of her recordings, and a bed lined with Dusty’s clothes.

And then there was Charles Dickens- according to his will, no mourners attending his services were allowed to be sporting scarves, cloaks, black bows, long hatbands or any other “revolting absurdity.” ( not likely to be a problem in modern society where , if you are lucky,  mourners will dress up with clean jeans and a shirt with a collar)

As eccentric as they are, at least those celebrities took the time to make a will- its amazing how many do not – just ask the lawyers representing the heirs of Aretha Franklin, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley or Sonny Bono, and growing rich because those stars didn’t bother to write wills.

Better yet, why not have a chat with us about your will?