Shocking Legal Will

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.

Create a Legal WIll And Protect Your Legacy Now.

Get Started Here

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.

man holding dollar bills

Many people view inheritance as a gold ticket: it’s the key to paying off debt, travelling the word, and living a life of luxury. Many Millennials have been suffering through a prolonged period of economic hardship since the great recession in 2008. The supposed “wealth transfer” might (hopefully) mitigate some of that financial blowback. An inheritance can change the person’s life for the better, if the money is blown on stuff they don’t need. Even a small amount of money is life changing in this day and age. If you’re lucky enough to inherit a small fortune, don’t blow that money. Besides doing the responsible thing and paying off your debts and mortgage, you can use it to have fun AND spread it around to your community.

Many people have used their inheritances to create positive and lasting impacts, honoring the legacy of their benefactors. When people inherit money, jewellery, or anything of value, there are those who choose to invest in their education or grandchildren, which releases a lot of the financial burden for their own children. While many people are relying on the possibility of an inheritance these days, only a few lucky ones may have the money to direct their efforts towards philanthropic efforts. This would include charitable foundations, funding scholarships, supporting medical research, etc. The latter is what we’re going to focus on today.

Let’s delve into the ways inheritance can be used as a widespread force for good:


Social Changes

Humanitarian Aid


Guardian of the Sydney Harbour

Building a Legacy of Education

Leaving a legacy is important for many people. Regardless of an inheritance or not, many people do want to give back to their community. Many people choose to leave money for schools and hospitals. Some people have given back by donating to their local school system, either because they really believe in the importance of education, or they had a good experience at their former alma mater, or both. The people who inherit and choose to do good with their money aren’t just leaving behind a legacy in the field of education, they’re changing other aspects of society as well:

Catalyzing Social Change

Many wealthy people often leave money to charities or foundations in the form of philanthropy. There are a variety of causes to support and charities always need money. Philanthropy can ease the burden and leave a legacy behind for your heirs. There are some billionaires, for instance, who have promised to donate their entire fortunes when they pass away.

Humanitarian Aid Efforts

An inheritance can also bolster humanitarian aid efforts in other parts of the world. An inheritance can go to worthwhile causes, such as Doctors without Borders, provide support for organizations around the world, and much more.

Empowering Entrepreneurship and Innovation

There are always startups looking for seed money: startups offer new innovative ways to offer products that can change people’s lives for the better. Supporting these startups can lead to supporting something brand new and innovative.

Guardian of the Sydney Harbour

This brings us to Australian native Andy Orr: the 55 year-old former school teacher inherited enough money to leave his job and dedicate his time to something he truly passionate about: sweeping up the Sydney Harbour. Every morning, Orr leaves his house with his trusty hat, bucket, and gloves in tow. He spends each morning picking out the plastic litter that sweeps across the harbour. He came up with the idea while strolling along the harbour with his wife a decade ago. He began cleaning up the plastic debris in his spare time.

The inheritance he received in 2020 has allowed him to quit his job and pick up trash full-time.

The most common piece of garbage that he often finds? Plastic straws. Reflecting on the activity, Orr says that picking up litter full-time is a “meditative” process. He finds it calming.

What happens when the 55 year-old’s knees give away? Orr says he’ll continue his work from a boat.

You might argue that Orr is only making a small impact on the world; but he’s doing what he loves and his inheritance has freed him of any financial restraints. He’s doing good in the world. Will you do good in the world as well? Inherit and do good!

Inheritance can make a meaningful difference in the world.

The iconic French brand

Updated: June 2024

Hermès. You know the brand name. The name that evokes images of rich women walking around with fancy purses. Purses that cost more than a yearly salary.

The makings of an iconic French brand

Who is Nicolas Puech?

What is the Isocrates Foundation?

The French brand that is a household name

The iconic French brand is definitely a luxury brand that only a few can afford. Founded in Paris in 1837 by Thierry Hermès, the brand began as a harness workshop catering to European noblemen. It was once known for creating well-tailored saddles, riding gear, and leather accessories. These were all items only the rich could once afford.

The tradition of catering to the rich carries into 2023; Hermès caters to women who can afford to live in the lap of luxury. Prices for their bags can range from a mere $6,000 to a whopping $31,000 (and higher.) It’s known as being the brand for creating the iconic Kelly Bag and Birkin Bag. Hermès is also a brand known for creating fancy scarves and perfume.

Who is Nicolas Puech?

It should be no surprise then, that Nicolas Puech, a descendant of Hermès, has (an approximately) WHOPPING $12 billion dollars in his name.

Puech purportedly owns a 5.7% stake in Hermès. There was an explosion of interest in the brand’s products after the pandemic (people wanted to spend again): the demand for products increased the value of the brand to nearly $230.8 billion. This means that Puech’s stake own stake in the company is worth around $12 billion dollars.

The 80 year-old was initially going to give the massive fortune to the Isocrates Foundation, a foundation that he created in 2011.

What is the Isocrates Foundation?

The Isocrates Foundation was founded by Puech himself in 2011. Instead of donating to traditional charities, such as the Red Cross, the Foundation supports investigative journalism. The website states that the foundation “supports public interest journalism and media organizations committed to strengthening the field of investigative journalism and the production of independent quality information.” You would think that Nicolas would be eager to donate money to his own foundation, right?

Who is Puech’s legal heir?

Instead, Puech is making his gardener his legal heir through the process of adoption. Naturally, the foundation isn’t too happy with the breach of contract: “From a legal point of view, a unilateral cancellation of the contract of inheritance seems void and unfounded,” the company stated in a statement to press. You would think that it would be VERY easy for Puech to easily void a contract, especially if it’s a contract for his OWN foundation. However, with the gardener now being a legally adopted heir, it is likely that the inheritance for the Foundation will be cut in half, rather than being entirely removed from inheriting anything. If this is true, then there is likelihood that the Foundation will receive 50%, not 100% of Puech’s fortune. The Foundation will most likely be getting $6 billion, not the entire $12 billion. No word on whether or not Puech can be sued for breach of contract. We can only speculate on Puech’s change of heart: why did he decide to make his gardener his legal heir, instead of giving everything to the foundation?

As for the company itself, it’s interesting to note that amid the decline of luxury brand sales (people trying to keep more money in their pockets), that Hermès is doing just fine: in fact, they reported a jump in sales earlier this year.

So, we’ll leave you to wonder about what you would do if you were lucky enough to be adopted by one of the richest men in the world.

what is probate

Updated: June 2024

Probate can sound confusing; it sounds as if it is a complex legal term that involving a lot of paperwork, time, and money. At it’s very core, this process is simply about validating the authenticity of a Last Will and Testament. It is often a misunderstood aspect of estate planning and administration. The Executor distributes the deceased’s assets according to their wishes (just as the Executor would in the case without a Last Will and Testament.) Let’s delve into the various aspects of probate in Canada: how it happens, how long the process takes, how it works, the Executor’s responsibilities, the circumstances requiring the process, and the concept of a Grant of Probate.

What is Probate

When Probate occurs

How long the process takes

When Probate happens

Who Handles Probate?

Do I need a lawyer for Probate?

Grant of Probate

Avoiding Probate

The Next Steps

What is Probate?

This legal procedure takes place after an individual passes away. It serves to officially recognize and authenticate the Last Will in question, which grants the Executor the authority to carry out the deceased’s wishes and distribute their assets among beneficiaries. This process ensures that the deceased’s debts are settled, taxes are paid, and that the assets from the estate are properly distributed.

Understanding probate in Canada involves a few key steps to grasp the process, requirements, and implications. This involves research. You obviously want to research how Probate works: what it is, what the fees are, and what the purpose of Probate is. Hopefully, we can help you with the basics:

When Does Probate Happen?

Probate is necessary when there are assets solely in the deceased’s name, and those assets need to be transferred to beneficiaries or sold to settle debts. This occurs in the following situations:

A) Testate Estates: The deceased had a valid Will in place. The court reviews the document to ensure its authenticity and then issues a Grant of Probate to authorize the Executor to carry out the wishes outlined in the Last Will.

B) Intestate: When a person dies without a valid Will, the estate is distributed according to the laws of intestacy. This may vary from province to province. This may require a similar court a Grant of Administration from the courts.

How Long Does It Take for a Will to Go Through Probate in Canada?

The process can be time-consuming: this varies on the complexity of the estate, the workload of the court, and whether or not any disputes or challenges may arise. It may take anywhere from a few months to a year to complete the process.

Executors should expect the following:

  1. Filing the Application: The Executor initiates the process by filing an application for Probate. This is the first step. This step can take a few weeks, because of all of the paperwork required.
  2. Review and Approval: Once the application is filed, the court reviews the Will in question (and the supporting documents) to ensure everything is in order. This can take several weeks to a few months. It depends on the backlog the particular court is facing at that time.
  3. Notification and Waiting Period: Creditors and potential beneficiaries must be notified during this whole extended process. There is typically a waiting period for any potential objections to the Probate process, which can further extend the process.
  4. Distribution of Assets: Once probate is granted, the Executor can begin distributing assets according to the terms of the Will. This also eats up extra time. It becomes even more of a lengthy process when the estate is complex.

How Does Probate Happen?

Probate in Canada occurs at the provincial/territorial level. Each province/territory has it’s own rules and stipulations regarding this process. Executors should file for Probate in the province/territory where the deceased held assets.

Who Handles The Process?

The person responsible for handling the process is known as the executor or estate trustee. This individual is typically named in the deceased’s Last Will. This person is responsible for:

  • Gathering and examining the deceased’s assets. This person evaluates the value of the assets.
  • Paying any outstanding debts, taxes, or liabilities from the estate.
  • Disperse the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as specified in the Last Will.

If there is no Last Will or no Executor, the court in question may appoint an administrator to handle the deceased’s affairs.

Do You Need a Lawyer to Probate a Will in Canada?

It’s not legally required to hire a lawyer to handle probate for a Will in Canada. It may be necessary for estates that are particularly complex. The process involves navigating through legal complexities, preparing legal documentation and ensuring that the documents are in compliance with provincial/territorial laws.

An Executor’s Responsibilities

The Executor is a key figure in this entire probate process:

  • Identifying Assets: Locating and securing all of the assets the deceased owned. This includes any financial accounts, real estate, and personal items.
  • Notifying Individuals: Properly informing creditors, beneficiaries, and other parties about probate.
  • Managing Finances: The Executor should manage the estate’s finances, pay off outstanding debts, funeral expenses, and deal with any tax obligations.
  • Assets: Ensure that the remaining assets are distributed in accordance with the provincial laws.
  • Submit documentation: Prepare and submit all of the necessary paperwork.

Check out this comprehensive executor guide for tips on making the best choice.

Circumstances Requiring Probate

Probate is typically required under various circumstances:

  • Sole Ownership: When the deceased owned assets only in their name (no joint ownership).
  • Real Estate Ownership: Real estate owned in the deceased’s name requires the necessity of the process.
  • Large Estates: Wealthy estates may require the process to streamline equitable distribution.
  • Will Disputes: If disputes arise, the process may be required to resolve these issues.

What Is A Grant Of Probate

A Grant of Probate is a vital legal document issued by the probate court. This verifies the authenticity of the deceased’s Will. It grants authority to the appointed executor to administer the estate. This document is pivotal as it provides the necessary legal authority to access, manage, and distribute the deceased’s assets.

Probate fees are also known estate administration fees. These are the costs associated with the legal process of probate in Canada. These fees can vary across Canada: Ontario, BC, Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Northwest Territories, PEI, and Nunavut.

What Are Probate Fees?

These fees are charges imposed by provincial/territorial governments for the validation and administration of a deceased person’s Will. These fees are typically calculated as a percentage of the total estate value or based on a tiered fee structure. This all depends upon the jurisdiction.

Fees in Ontario

In Ontario, fees are often referred to as an Estate Administration Tax. These are assessed on estates with assets over $50,000. The rate is $15 for every $1,000 of estate value exceeding $50,000.

Fees in BC

In British Columbia, fees are likewise based on the total estate value. These are also based on a tiered fee structure. Fees range from 0.6% to 1.4% of the estate value.

Fees in Alberta

Alberta does not have fees; instead, it has a flat-rate fee for filing a $35 Grant of Probate fee.

Fees in Quebec

Quebec imposes notarial and registration fees instead of traditional fees. These costs are typically lower than the fees in other provinces.

Fees in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan has a progressive fee structure: this ranges from from 0.7% to 1.5% of the estate’s total value.

Fees in Manitoba

Manitoba calculates fees based on the total value of the estate. Rates vary from 0.5% to 1.5%.

Fees in New Brunswick

New Brunswick assesses fees on estates valued at $10,000 or more. Rates ranging from 0.5% to 1.5%.

Fees in Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, fees are calculated as a percentage of the estate value, varying from 0.5% to 1.695%.

Fees in Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador apply fees based on the total estate value, with rates varying from 0.7% to 1.5%.

Fees in Yukon

Yukon assesses fees based on the total value of the estate; rates range from 0.4% to 1.2%.

Fees in Northwest Territories

In the Northwest Territories, fees range between 0.6% to 1.4%.

Fees in PEI

PEI imposes fees based on the total estate value, with rates ranging from 0.5% to 1.5%.

Fees in Nunavut

Nunavut assesses fees based on the total value of the estate, with rates ranging from 0.4% to 1.2%.

How Can I Avoid Probate in Canada?

Avoiding probate in Canada is possible through various strategies:

  1. Joint Ownership: Owning assets jointly with a spouse or family member can bypass the process. Ownership transfers automatically to the surviving co-owner.
  2. Designated Beneficiaries: Naming beneficiaries insurance policies, retirement accounts, and registered savings plans allows your assets to pass directly to beneficiaries.
  3. Gifts: Gifting assets to your loved ones during your lifetime reduces the value of the estate subject to probate.
  4. Establishing Trusts: Creating trusts for specific assets may keep them out of the process.
  5. Small Estate Affidavit: Estates that have low value may qualify for a simplified process.

FAQ: What is Probate Court?

This is a specialized court overseeing the whole process. The function of this court is to: validate Wills, appointing executors/administrators, settling disputes between people involved in probate, and streamlining the deceased’s assets.

FAQ: What is Probate Tax?

This is also known as estate administration tax. These fees are a provincial/territorial fee levied on the estate. It is based on the total value of the estate. It validates the Will and makes the process easier. The tax rate varies depending on the jurisdiction and the value of the estate.

FAQ: What Happens After a Probate is Granted?

After probate is granted, the executor or administrator has the authority to manage the deceased’s assets. This involves the following:

  • Identifying and securing assets.
  • Paying outstanding debts, taxes, and any administrative expenses.
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries as per the Will or other legal requirements.
  • Keeping detailed records of all transactions related to the estate.

Your next steps

In a nutshell, the entire process is simply to validate the deceased’s Last Will. This includes ensuring that their wishes are respected, their debts are settled, their assets are distributed (the same thing that a Last Will is supposed to do), etc. Probate is just certifying that the Will is validated, but with extra steps.

There are different procedures, fees, and rules for each province: In Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, the probate process includes submitting the Will to each respective provincial court to be validated. Other provinces may have different procedures. It’s always a good idea to do your research.

The fees for each province can be substantial, so you will want to minimize the fees as much as possible. Some common methods include: joint ownership, designated beneficiaries outside of Wills, trusts, gifts, etc.

Probate doesn’t have to be a confusing process; seek out advice if you need it or start writing your Will online today. This can help you avoid the whole process altogether, or make it easier if the issue does arise.

Start creating your legal will online today in just few easy steps with Formalwill