Some people think creating a will is a solemn occasion - a way of staring down one’s own mortality and acknowledging that nothing lasts forever. Others, by contrast, have taken it upon themselves to make their wills as eccentric and unique as they were in life. Here are three of our favourite wills created by people who weren’t satisfied with the norm.
If you’ve explored any part of the study of philosophy, you may know Jeremy Bentham as the founder of Utilitarianism.
Upon his death, Bentham requested that along with his body being dissected for an anatomy lecture, he wanted his head to be preserved.
After the dissection, his head was reattached to his skeleton which was then stuffed and dressed so he could sit forever in a cabinet behind a pane of glass, presumably to stand guard like an undead scarecrow. As if that wasn’t eerie enough, the following took place:
“On several occasions, the cabinet was rolled out to various meetings hosted by his known friends, again, as his Will had requested.”
It’s debatable that looking at his preserved head during meetings produced the greatest good for the greatest number, but that’s a discussion for a different time.
Charles Vance Millar was a Canadian lawyer who, at the time of his death in 1926, had amassed quite a large fortune with no family to leave it to. This didn’t stop him from using his will for one last laugh.
Millar left his Jamaican summer home to three lawyers who he knew hated each other with the stipulation that in order to use it, they all had to go together. Upon the death of the last survivor, the home was to be sold, and the profits distributed amongst the underprivileged of Kingston, Jamaica.
Millar also left his shares of a catholic brewery to temperance-supporting protestant ministers, provided they take part in its management. His shares of Kenilworth Jockey Club went to three men who were against horse racing, clarifying that in order to get the money they had to become members of the club.
But perhaps the most famous part of his will was what became known as The Great Stork Race. Millar left the remains of his estate to the woman in Toronto who gave birth to the most babies in the 10 years after his death. This eventually went to three different women who tied at nine babies each.
If you look up the definition of “Chaotic Good” you’ll find a picture of Charles Vance Millar (not really, but you get the idea).
Houdini is a name that will live forever as being known as the greatest escape artist of all time. Although his will may not be as well known as the man, it’s definitely worth the read.
Before his death, Houdini picked ten words at random and shared them with his wife Bess.
In his will, he specified that he wanted her perform a séance regularly in order to contact him from beyond the grave. The idea behind the 10 random words was that when Bess finally contacted him, he would give her those 10 words so she would know it was really him that she was conversing with.
She held an annual séance on Halloween for 10 years after his death, but it’s not known if her dedication ever reached him with their secret code.
While these wills are unique and in some cases funny, it’s important to remember that not everything you might want to put in your will could be legally allowed (for example you can’t make anyone do anything illegal in order to receive their inheritance). Be sure to check in with a lawyer to make sure you’re not invalidating your entire document in the name of comedy.