Shocking Legal Will

You Won’t Believe What Was in These 10 Shockingly Strange Legal Wills

In this list, we’ve compiled some of the weirdest legal Wills that defy belief: from ashes spread out into space to dogs being left shares in a company, these are some of the strangest, weirdest, most bizarre Last Wills that we’ve come across (so far). After reading this list, you might be inclined to start writing a will. You may also want to start thinking about what makes a will legal, and how the process works. Keep reading until the end for tips. 

History is peppered with individuals who took their last opportunity to make a statement, pull a prank, or simply leave other people feeling befuddled. Not only did these individuals leave a lasting mark on the world while they were alive, they certainly left a legacy when they died

Some names you may recognize; others not so much. They all have one thing in common: they all have left a lasting imprint on the world through their Wills.  Let’s go down the rabbit hole of the top 10 weirdest Wills: 

1. Space Will: The Final Frontier

Space Legal Will

Gene Roddenberry. You know the name: he created the iconic Star Trek series. His departure from this world left a black hole in the hearts of many of his fans. But his legacy continues through his work to this day: a touching final directive that his ashes be launched into the cosmos, symbolically returning to the celestial frontier that he so ardently explored in his imagination. His wishes were carried out in 1997, when his ashes were blown out by the Space Shuttle, Columbia. This unworldly journey mirrors the boundless spirit of exploration and discovery embodied in the Star Trek universe he crafted. Roddenberry boldly went where (most) have not gone before.

2. The Oil Heiress and her Ferrari

Legal Will - Car Fanatic

Egyptian pharaohs, kings, queens, and emperors were all buried in style. They were draped in gold and jewelry; they would be buried six feet under and adorned in their fanciest clothes.  Car lovers are continuing this tradition, with some of these fanatics being buried six feet under with or in their cars. Sandra Illene West was one such “queen.” The oil heiress died in 1977 and was buried in her sky-blue Ferrari. It’s not clear if she was buried alongside her beloved car or in it. It really gives meaning to the phrase “You can’t take it with you.” She’s buried next to her husband at the famous Alamo Masonic Cemetery in San Antonio. It’s become quite a tourist attraction.

We know people love their cars, but this is going a bit overboard.

3. Immortalized in Ink: The Superhero Will

Legal Will Superhero

Mark Gruenwald, beloved writer at Marvel Comics, loved his work. In his final act of literary fusion, the comic book writer wrote in his Last Will and Testament for his ashes to be mixed in with the colored ink of his beloved comics, Squadron Supreme. Marvel fulfilled his wish in 1997.

That’s one way to leave a legacy.

4. The Great “Stork” Derby Will

Great Stork Derby Will

Charles Vance Millar was a wealthy Canadian who loved babies! He was also a prankster. His death in the 1920’s spurred a contest to see which woman could have the most babies. Whether a prank or real, Millar stipulated in his legal Will that a large amount of money from his estate would go to the woman who gave birth to the most children within ten years of his passing. This kicked off what is now dubbed the “Great Stork Derby” contest. The winner would get a whopping $9 million-dollar fortune.

Four women were announced as the winners: they each gave birth to nine children. The money was equally split among the mothers and their nonuplets (let’s face it: they were going to need that money).

5. Back From the Dead

Dinner trust fund

John Bowman was a tanner from the 1880’s. He lived a rather mundane life until the death of his wife and two daughters. Yearning to be reunited with his family after his death, he set up a trust in his legal Will for $50,000. The amount was to arrange for nightly dinners after his death so that he and his family could enjoy a semblance of what life was like before they died. 

This nightly practice began in 1891 and stopped in 1950, when the money from his trust fund dried up.

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6. The “Queen of Mean” Legal Will

Leona Helmsey Last Will

Imagine being disowned in favour of a dog. That’s exactly what happened to Craig and Meegan Panzirer. The siblings were famously disowned by their rich grandmother, Leona Helmsley, upon her death. When Helmsley passed away in 2007, the affluent widow purposely left out her two grandchildren “for reasons that are known to them.” Ouch! What did they do to be cut out? Did they not spend enough time with their grandmother? It’s not known to the public. 

They eventually sued the estate. A judge granted them $3 million each. 

Trouble’s inheritance dwindled down to $2 million. 

That should be enough to take care of a dog, right?

7. A Real-Life Leprechaun

Forrest Fenn Last will

A millionaire by the moniker of Forrest Fenn was something of a real-life leprechaun: his Last Will kicked off a treasure hunt for an actual 42-pound bronze chest in 2010. Filled to the brim with gold, gems, antique jewelry, and other valuables (worth $2 million dollars), a “gold rush” began out in the Rocky Mountains. This is the stuff of novels. The hunt began after his death at the age of 90. Many desperately explored the mountains; many gave up. One winner, through sheer persistence, did find the treasure in 2017. 

Not surprisingly, the winner, though verified, has had their identity kept secret from the public.

8. Houdini’s Legal Will

Houdini legal will

Harry Houdini. You know the name.  

The master illusionist, the great escape artist who could escape from any trap, had one final trick up his sleeve in his Last Will and Testament. 

His Will was revealed to the public after his death at the relatively young age of 52. Aside from the mundane stuff, like leaving $500 to each of his three assistants, or the $1,000 left to the Society of American Magicians (yes, this is a real thing), there was a twist in his legal Will that would beguile the public for decades. 

Houdini’s wife was instructed to conduct a séance regularly after his death. She was supposedly given a code – one that consisted of ten words chosen at random – to use as a way to contact him in the afterlife. Houdini was supposed to reach out to her with the exact same ten words during the séance.  Bess, Houdini’s wife, conducted annual séances on Halloween of all times, for a decade after his death.

No word on whether or not she actually made contact with her deceased husband or not.

9. Grizzly Remains

Legal Will Bear - Formalwill

This interesting tidbit doesn’t contain a specific, written Last Will and Testament. But it’s a wild story – a true story – about a man and his love for grizzly bears. Timothy Treadwell often spent time in the company of bears and even told his best friend that he wanted his body to be used as bear food upon his death.

Treadwell and his girlfriend were roughing it in Katmai National Park one fateful day in 2003. They had ignored previous warnings about getting too close to bear encampments in the area. The pair didn’t listen and were gruesomely mauled by a grizzly on the hunt for food. 

There are haunting recordings of their deaths caught on audio online.

10. Shewbridge. The Man Who Left Shares of His Company to His Dogs

Shewbridge legal will

Shewbridge. The name sounds like a piece of food. This is fitting, seeing as Thomas Shewbridge was a prune rancher in California. He loved his dogs. As in, he really loved his dogs. 29,000 shares of his company were left to his dogs upon his death in his Will. This wasn’t a joke. The dogs were supposed to (and did) attend shareholder meetings on a regular basis. 

What were his dogs supposed to do with the shares? 

Did he think the dogs would do a better job of managing the company? What would you do if you were sitting in a boardroom, with dogs present at a shareholder meeting?

There you have it: some of the weirdest legal Wills you’ll ever read about. 

These extraordinary Wills challenge our ideas of what it means to leave a legacy. Whether driven by affection, humor, or the desire for control, these last wishes remind us of the quirky, unpredictable nature of humanity. 

Your legacy as well, can be a reminder of your unique life.