Two old siblings fight over money

Inheritance can be tricky; many of us dream about receiving a large inheritance from a long-lost dead relative (with no strings attached, of course). Inheritance becomes a contentious issue within families, conflicts arise, relationships become strained (or completely severed). When a family member passes away, the way in which their assets are distributed can lead to feelings of envy, anger, or disheartenment. Feelings of perceived favoritism may arise, anger over the “unfairness” of splitting assets, etc. Disputes are exacerbated by underlying family dynamics and unresolved tensions; all of this adds further fuel to the fire that is the grief and turmoil the family is already going through, having lost a loved one. Communication is key!

In reality, getting an inheritance in real life does come with strings attached: wars over inheritance can tear families apart. Celebrities like Michael Jackson, Prince, and many others, have left behind bawling, brawling, family members fighting countless battles in the courtroom.

But does the average joe, who doesn’t have as much money as say, Michael Jackson, really have to worry about what he or she is going to pass on to their kids?

As it turns out: yes.

Inheritance isn’t just about the money you’ll pass on to your family members. Receiving an inheritance is loaded with emotional significance: sentimental items, heirlooms, family paraphernalia – all have a connection to the past. This connection could either make or break the members of your family members when you pass away. This is more than just about money; inheritance can become a symbol of how loved a child feels.

Emotions can run high; especially when one sibling fears receiving nothing left behind by his/her parents, or when when one sibling learns that he or she is about to inherit less than a brother or sister.

Communication is the key to dealing with this problem: when tensions are running high among family members, having a calm discussion with your children before setting out your Will can really soothe over any hurt feelings. Your children should be able to understand the reasons as to why they are getting what they’re getting when you pass away. The reasons concerning their inheritance should be clearly outlined. Essentially, if you, as the father, or the mother, are writing up your Last Will, you’ll want to sit everyone down and have an open and honest conversation as to why your children are inheriting what they are, and the reasons behind it. Why is one sibling getting more? Why is one sibling getting less? Communicating with your loved ones about the reasons behind their inheritance before you pass away, before you get sick, and while you’re clear of mind, keeps the lines of communication open.

For some, communication with their parents is not so easy, particularly when one parent appears to be narcissistic. There are parents who will make decisions regarding their children’s inheritance and have the attitude of “It’s my money, and I can do whatever I want.” The lack of a need to justify their decisions as to why they’re doing what they’re doing can cause a rift among their children. That appears to be the case with one person who recently wrote to an online column (Dear Amy) asking for advice about how to deal with her estranged brother:

“Dear Amy: My brother and I are both in our 70s. We’ve only spoken once in the last three years. After our father passed, our mother sold their home. My father had previously told my brother that when they sold the house, he wanted to give a certain amount of money to each of us. Our mother did not honor our father’s wishes, but did give us each a smaller amount. Years later she deposited a good sum of money into his account but asked him not to tell me. (I wouldn’t have cared at all.) Mom later called the bank and asked for the money back. My brother was angry, but approved it, and then stopped speaking to her. My mother moved closer to me and I was her sole caretaker for seven years until she moved into assisted living. She spent the rest of her money paying for her care. My brother thinks I got more money from her than he did, which is not true.”

With the mother now gone, greed, as the author implies, is the problem:

“He [my brother] also expected me to give him money from the sale of my home because I had gotten more than the asking price. I had sent him $1,000. I also sent him over $5,000 when he needed emergency dental care. I wondered why he never returned my calls, until I found out from his estranged wife that he had expected to receive a lot more money from me from the sale of my house.”

There are certain details that appear to be omitted, but that is the gist of the letter. The author wonders what she can do to smooth things over with her brother.

The ball, as Amy replied, is now in the brother’s court.

You can read more about this story, here.

Although the author doesn’t mention it, things could have been smoothed out if their late mother had simply sat down with her two children and explained the reasons as to why she was spending their inheritance the way she was. A (difficult) conversation about the whole thing could have saved years of estrangement between the two siblings after she passed away.

It may have even kept the relationship between the two siblings intact.

Take this as a lesson when you’re planning our the inheritance for your children or loved ones: communicate!

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.

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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.

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:

Legacy

Social Changes

Humanitarian Aid

Startups

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.

Man Excited by Windfall

You’ve got $50 million dollars – as the title implies. What do you do with it? Before you go blowing it all on a fancy cruise vacation, new house, BMW, new car, or yes, avocado toast, take some time to collect your thoughts and let the fact that you’ve inherited a fortune sink in. That’s what Ken from Sacramento did. After inheriting $50 million dollars from his parents, he called into the Dave Ramsey show to gain some perspective on how to manage his money. You can learn from Ken on what to do if you ever wind up in the same situation. Here are a few tips on managing inheritance that we’d like to share:

Stay calm and don’t be in a rush to spend your money

See professional advice

Set clear financial goals

Pay off debts and pad your emergency fund

Invest your money wisely

Don’t blow it all

Giving back

1. Take a Breath and Don’t Rush

This one should be obvious: don’t rush to blow it all. When Ken reached out to the Dave Ramsey show about how to spend his $50 million dollar inheritance, Ramsey offered the following advice: spend some, save some, invest some, give some of the money to charity, etc. The news of an unexpected inheritance can be overwhelming, triggering a flurry of emotions. Try to adjust to your new financial reality before making any rash decisions.

2. Seek Professional Advice

One of the first things you may want to do is to seek out professional advice from a financial advisor. While Ken Consider consulting with a financial advisor, accountant, or lawyer who specializes in inheritance matters. That is why the caller called into the Dave Ramsey show: to receive advice from a professional on what to do with his inheritance. A financial advisor can help you grasp the full picture of dealing with taxes, investments, any fees, bills to pay off, debts, etc. An advisor can offer the best strategies for managing or investing your assets. A financial advisor may also help you tackle paying for everything in this era of high inflation. You may want to consult with an advisor you are really comfortable with, and who you have a good relationship with. You don’t want to stick with the SAME advisor just because that particular person is someone who your parents used (IF your parents had one).

3. Set Clear Goals

Once you’ve gathered the necessary information, it’s time to set clear goals for what you want to achieve with your inheritance. You may want to look at paying everything off you owe before deciding to (wisely) use the money to invest, renovate your house, travel, etc. Specific goals are the key: whether it be diversifying your portfolio, or planning your estate.

4. Pay Off Debts and Build Emergency Fund

This one goes without saying: If you have any outstanding debts (student loans, credit card debt, etc.), consider using a portion of your inheritance to pay them off. Even if you comb through your finances with a financial advisor, you still shouldn’t touch that money and just brazenly spend it all. When you pay off your all of your debts, you can relax and focus on investing for the future. It’s a practical way to secure your financial future and relieve the burden of debt. It’s also good to prioritize an building up an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses. You don’t have to have a specific amount between three to six months of savings, but if you have an inheritance and are looking to save for the future, it’s always wise to do following: pay off debt and have an emergency fund. It sounds obvious, but when you actually have access to the money, it’s tempting to simply blow it all. You might also underestimate how much money you really need to live on and invest for your future.

5. Invest Wisely

Consider diversifying your inheritance into investments to mitigate risks and maximize returns. Consult with a financial advisor to develop an investment strategy. Whether you invest in stocks, bonds, real estate, or put money into mutual funds, TFSAs, or RRSPs, make informed decisions.

6. Plan for the Future

Once you have used that money to plan for YOUR future and invest wisely, you may also want to spread the wealth (to your family members and loved ones, that is). You may want to use some of that inheritance to fund your children’s education. You may not have a million to your name, but estate planning is always valuable. Take the time to create or update your estate plan, including Wills, trusts, and beneficiaries. Planning ahead ensures that your assets are distributed.

7. Enjoy Responsibly

It sounds like a beer slogan, but it’s true: enjoy your money responsibly. Treat yourself to something special, but avoid overspending or making impulsive decisions that could deplete your inheritance. Stories abound about lottery winners who blow through their money within a decade and wind up broke. If you’re not careful, the same could happen to you, regardless of how you come across your windfall (i.e. lottery or inheritance).

8. Give Back

Lastly, many people who have their Wills drawn up often consider leaving something for charity. Many people do this in their Wills, but if you ever come across a significant windfall, you may want to consider donating the money right away. That money you donate will surely have a meaningful impact on others around you.

Whether you inherit a million, or a small windfall, just be sure to manage it carefully.

Be sure to seek out advice, like Ken from Sacramento.