Lawyers Share The Absolute Weirdest Thing Someone Has Put In Their Will
Wills can be powerful. They’re a great way to make sure that the people you love receive the possessions, land, and money to help your legacy continue even after your passing.
Now and then, however, lawyers come across wills that contain some rather odd requests. People leave behind all sorts of random things, and usually, they always have a sensible reason for it; even if others don’t initially understand it.
You’ve got to give them some credit, though—they definitely know what they want and they’re not afraid to put it in writing. Some of these wills will definitely cause family drama, while some will try to prevent it altogether. After you’re done, you might even decide to get a little creative about your own will!
#1 Clever Reading
A relative of mine worked for a firm that prepared wills. He was confronted by an executor who had an edict to “scatter the deceased’s ashes from a microlight aircraft.” He couldn’t fly one.
She kindly pointed out to him that the drafting said nothing about whether the microlight aircraft was to be in flight at the time of the scattering.
#2 Do Fish Even Like Avocado?
I am a qualified solicitor. I had two interesting cases so far in my career:
A lady wanted to create a trust fund of £100,000 for her pet fish. When I asked if it was a special kind of fish, she confirmed it was just a normal goldfish, but she wanted it to be fed fresh avocado every day and be looked after by a local dog walker after she died. She was absolutely serious.
Another lady confessed that she had a secret daughter. She wanted to leave the daughter some money and photographs without the rest of her family finding out. Even her husband does not know. That will be a fun conversation when she passes away.
#3 Smart Requirement
My great-grandad had a clause in his will that stated something along the lines of: “If any of the beneficiaries decide to dispute the contents of the estate, their share becomes $1 and nothing else.”
Seemed like a pretty good way to maintain harmony among his survivors.
#4 I Can See Why
When my grandfather passed away, he willed for me to clean out his shed. Just me, no one else.
I found “special herb” seeds, old reel style adult videos, and a bunch of other unsavory paraphernalia. It made me laugh.
#5 Apparently He Had People To Fear
I had a Russian client. The son of an oligarch. His father created a trust which provided dispositive provisions for if he was kidnapped and not found within a certain number of months. It freaked me out. I believe the will had a similar language too, but I can’t remember now.
#6 A Cat Can Change Everything
Just last week, I handled a matter where the parents left millions in artwork to various people, wads of cash to various charities, and only left their kids the family cats. It turns out, they did it because the kids got them the cats, but they absolutely hated them, and the kids wouldn’t let them get rid of them.
#7 Like A Made For TV Movie
My mom put in her will that if she dies under suspicious circumstances, my sister and I wouldn’t be left anything. She watches a lot of true crime.
#8 Crazy Or Kind?
This one isn’t necessarily crazy, just an interesting glimpse into the mind of a kind old woman in her 90s.
My aunt and uncle passed away within a few weeks of one another. They were like parents to me. When my uncle became ill, my aunt tried to work on a will with her long-term lawyer, but she was old and mentally out of it. Her main concern the entire time was to ensure her small knick-knacks like a jar of pennies or a used jacket from the 70s were bequeathed to a sister-in-law.
It was quite touching how much time she spent carefully considering each item and who would get it. Most of the items were used and didn’t even really hold any sentimental value; she just wanted them to go to good homes.
When she passed away, everyone knew exactly who was getting what item. The real kicker is when the lawyer told the primary beneficiaries that she never got around to the bigger assets and all that jazz. She basically told the lawyer, “Pay for our funeral, and anything we owe and then family members can figure out the rest.” It ended up being millions in homes, lakefront property, jewelry, antique firearms, vehicles, life insurance policies, stocks, bonds, gold coins, etc.
Luckily, the family is very close, and everything went off without a hitch. They were amazing people who wanted to keep family items in the family; they just didn’t put that much weight on their incredible wealth. They also hid their wealth amazingly. We all knew that they were very comfortable, but no one had any idea they were deep into eight-figure assets. It was just funny to see a random niece get a set of plastic cups, worn dance shoes, and a check for $125,000.
#9 She Really Thought About It
I read a lot of estate documents as part of my job. There is so much subtle shade in them, and they can be pretty entertaining. One super wealthy lady had a huge section for the care and wellbeing of her pets. It indicated primary and successor caretakers, a certain amount of money from the trust for care and feeding of each pet (one pet owner might receive $3,000 a month to take care of one of her pets after she passed), and certain stipulations on how they were to be cared for. While some might see it as excessive, the language and stipulations she had and how they were referred to showed that she really, really loved her pets.
In that same will and trust, she also left a slew of people only one dollar, so that there would be no chance they could take the trust to probate court on the basis that they were merely forgotten. That part had SO MUCH SUBTLE SHADE. A lot of “they know what they did,” “they are well aware of their guilt in the matter,” etc. They she split up about two million dollars among five or six different animal rescues and animal welfare charities.
It was around 200 pages long, and I swear I read the entire thing just for the sheer entertainment value.
#10 What A Gift
My great uncle willed the contents of his outhouse to the city council of a nearby town after they’d tried to take his land twice to build a new water treatment plant. He spent quite a few years fighting eminent domain claims and just wanted to give them something in return. As a joke, his kids boxed up all the books and magazines in the outhouse and dropped them off at city hall.
#11 Cats Are Amazing
An aging woman my family knew left her estate to family friends. The one condition was that they had to take care of her cats in that same estate. After they died, the house was to be sold and the remaining estate donated.
The weird thing is, it’s been like 20 years and the cats are still alive.
Also, they’ve changed color.
#12 What A Helpful Addition
The city I work for was renovating a small park that was donated to the city in the 1900s. We went looking through the hand-written deed for easements or other restrictions and found that the family could claw the property back if the park were not “perpetually provided with a fountain of pleasant running water fit for consumption by man and beast alike.” The family still has descendants in town, so we installed a new water fountain with a dog bowl filler just to be safe.
#13 That’s A Good Deal
My sister’s mother-in-law is leaving her house to her three sons. If one wants to sell out his third of the house, he has to sell it to the other two brothers for $1.
#14 It Remains To Be Seen
Whenever I visited my old grandma in Nicaragua, it would always seem my aunts and uncles would be weirdly nice to her, almost as if she was a famous person. People would be visiting her house to greet her and strike a conversation. One day, my mother walked into my grandma’s room to have a conversation with her.
I remember during the flight back (which was three to four days after the conversation) I asked her what the conversation was about. She told me that grandma used to have children that almost never talked to her, and now that she’s sickly they are trying to act nice to get stuff out of her will. My grandma wanted to talk to my mom to ask her what she wanted from the house. My mom was always her favorite growing up since she cherished grandma, and grandma wanted to pay her back for being a good daughter. My mom replied, “I don’t want anything for you, I just want your love,” and they both smiled at each other.
#15 It Hasn’t Happened Yet
A Furby collection from models collected in the late ’90s. They were convinced they would retain future value.
This was 2011.
#16 How Much Time Would That Take?
Here’s one from one of my dad’s law partners. He had a lady come in with an itemized list of books and wanted her will to determine who would get what based on her choosing. The truly astonishing thing is how many books there and how specific she got. According to dad’s law partner, her list is at about 2,000 books, which were to be divided among 30 people. She is apparently very specific and comes back at least once a year to add all the new books she’s gotten.
#17 That’s Some Specific Knowledge
“James gets the 1957 Sears catalog… Billy gets the 1957 JC Penney catalog. I know he enjoys looking at the hussies in the lingerie section…”
#18 Lucky Cat
My friend’s mother had in her will: “My cat gets to live in my house alone until it expires.” The cat lived there for a few years alone with a caregiver checking in on it every so often. Yes, she was rich.
#19 Does That Count As A Win?
My grandpa gave me all his tools, a pretty good chunk of change, and his dog Tanner, as long as I made sure his live-in girlfriend at the time got nothing at all. I told my uncle that he was fat and his wife was going to leave him.
#20 That Seems Random
I work for a will writer specialist in the UK, currently studying toward my TEP.
One of our earlier clients passed recently. Turns out, the man she left almost everything to—including the considerable residue of her estate—was her regular taxi driver. She had also named him as her executor. He had no clue.
The woman who was named as her executor and main beneficiary on the previous two wills was a close friend of the client for many years. She was, understandably, flabbergasted and contested the will.
We responded to her solicitor’s Larke v. Nugus request, informed Mr. Taxi Driver (who didn’t even know our client had passed) and the will was upheld. The aforementioned friend was bequeathed a legacy of £5,000 if I remember correctly, but her nose was clearly out of joint.
Bonus observation: it takes a lot less than £5,000 being up for grabs to make families turn against each other. It can get really nasty. It’s one of the most startling things I’ve learned in my short time in this business.
#21 More Sad Than Anything
I was the first son, so my dad decided to leave me more. Except he did the math wrong and it came out to 105%. He had dementia.
#22 Is That Really Very Sneaky?
My wife’s grandma is not putting the grandkids in the will. She did not want to play favorites, but my wife is her favorite so she made my wife the executor and gave her 5%.
#23 Maybe Awkward Was The Point
I’m the executor of my grandmother’s will. I also get the house and everything in it, plus a share of life insurance that’s split three ways between myself, sister, and mom. My mom has always said that all my dad, my grandmother’s son-in-law, would like to get something. Well, in the will, there’s like a whole paragraph that states how my dad gets nothing—he doesn’t lay a finger on anything in the house or on any money. It continues to say that my dad is basically worthless and deserves nothing because he was a terrible father. Thanks, grandma, I’ll always appreciate the awkwardness.
#24 Interesting Relationship
I worked on the divorce case of a couple who fought over every single thing in the house. They were left 52 gallons of vanilla extract by her grandmother. In a secondary preceding, he was awarded all but 5 gallons. Two weeks later, he sent in a case of “samples” in ziplock baggies to our office along with a request to subpoena a urine test from his ex-wife to prove she went #1 in the jugs before he picked them up. We never needed to as she admitted to doing so in court. They were neat. This same couple went to court for nearly two years over a beanie baby collection. They had three kids.
#25 Karma, Man
My grandfather left my uncle three things from his rather valuable estate: 1) one dollar in unrolled pennies, 2) a framed copy of the contract my uncle signed saying he owed my grandfather more than $100,000, and 3) a framed copy of the letter my uncle sent my grandfather saying he was disowning my grandfather for “being cheap.”
I was only a kid but I understood, and laughed at it when I heard my uncle cursing my grandfather to the attorney. My grandfather was right; he is a jerk.
#26 Their Current Lifestyle Sounds Awesome
I work at a law firm. One client left $100,000 to his two cats so they could “maintain their current lifestyle.”
#27 Thanks, Grandpa
My grandpa put in his will a chocolate bar for every one of his grandkids. Well, I have like, 12 cousins and it’s very difficult to track down where a couple of them went. All the estates and money he had in his will was at a standstill for months because they couldn’t find my cousins. We had to show the court we hired someone to track them down, etc. The lawyer that was helping execute the will was blown away that this lawyer allowed this and didn’t know why he wouldn’t highly suggest not to do it. But I’m not complaining ’cause I got a Toblerone out of the deal!
#28 What Did You Do?
My grandma left a penny and a nasty comment to almost every person in the will; all of her sons and daughters, even a few grandchildren, except for me. I got $1,000.
#29 Worked Out For You
My old landlord took two years to boot me out because her mother who owned the place died and she wanted to sell the place. But her mother’s caretaker said the mother verbally promised the house to her. Even though it was not written in the will, it still took two years of fighting in court to clear things up. No, the caretaker didn’t get it in the end, even after all the appeals.
#30 That’ll Work
I was forced to write a will in my early 20s as part of my application for the health insurance I get at work. The in-house lawyer said it was totally okay for this clause to be added:
“I am to be buried in a coffin which has been spring loaded, such that opening the coffin would cause alarm to future archeologists.”
#31 What Is That?
My great grandmother left most of her money to a local donkey sanctuary.
#32 A Side Of… Ashes?
The client wanted her ashes spread at the restaurant (on the beach) where she met her husband.
#33 Friends Forever
I work in probate. The oddest thing I’ve seen in a will was a request to euthanize the beloved family horse, cremate it and have its ashes scattered with the decedent. The horse she named in the will was already dead. So luckily, the one she got afterward lived to see another farm.
#34 For The Family
I’ve seen lots of people sending their friends and family on weird errands to spread their ashes. Some even leave a travel fund so they can spread the ashes overseas.
Pet trusts are a fun one: leaving a whole whack of money in a trust to be used for the care of the pet during their life.
However, my favorite ever (that I obviously didn’t draft) was a lawyer who left the bulk of his estate (millions in today’s dollars) to whatever Toronto-area woman had the most children at a specific date some years in the future. I recall the winner had 10.
#35 Hard To Know Why
Lawyer here. Probably the most interesting will I’ve read was one where the woman wanted to gift the frozen bodily fluids of her dead dog.
#36 That Is Seriously Controlling
When the dad died, he set up financial installments so long as his daughter remained under a certain weight. The dude was controlling her diet from the grave.
#37 The Wife Or The Money?
A famous case most law students read is of a mother who left a ton of money to her son… provided he married a Jewish woman. Well, he was already married to a non-Jewish woman — big mess.
#38 Sounds Hilarious
My friend and I have an agreement that he will get $10 out of my estate when I pass away.
I also want all beneficiaries notified by a mysterious man in a dark suit, preferably on a dark rainy day.
#39 Pretty Clever
I had a friend who had a toxic relationship with his uncle. When his uncle passed, he was surprised to find he was in the will. It turns out, there was a handwritten IOU that read: “I’m leaving you $15,000, BUT you have to get it from me.” My friend laughed.
#40 Good Reaction
My grandfather left me $1. He had dementia and confused my dad who ripped him off with me. He left the rest of the family between $100,000 and a few million each. They all said they felt horrible because they knew the details, but not horrible enough to give up any of their shares. The way I see it is it was never my money to begin with, so it’s not a loss. I’m just glad my sister got a $100,000, she needed it more than any of the others.
#41 People Love Their Cats
I worked with a client who wanted her cats to be euthanized and buried with her. We had to explain why legally we couldn’t do that. The moral part just went over her head. She was one of the few clients who ever got under my skin.
#42 Grandma Knows What’s Up
My own grandmother specified which of the children and grandchildren should get her family recipes. For some reason, she felt the need to include commentary about why certain decisions were made. One recipe was this Prohibition-era recipe for beer which I knew my uncle, also a home brewer, wanted, but she left it to me, with the comment that “I know you wanted it, Teddy, but she has the second-best penmanship of the girls and will make you a copy.”
And then like, eight pages later, among the specific descriptions of her vast collection of romance novels, was a line: “And my romance novels will be given to Spidey, who will please subtract about half the hops before she copies the beer recipe for her Uncle Teddy so that any of us can drink it. Our Jon had his IPA last summer and just about died.”
Uncle Jon just about burst into tears laughing and Uncle Teddy had long since left the room because he has no cares whatsoever to give about romance novels. Uncle Jon, of course, was still in the room because there was also still Yuengling.
And no, I have no idea how she got this will done. My guess is she wrote it herself and the law students who come to her independent-living building signed off on it. It was…elaborate, that’s for sure. The total value of the estate was well under $8,000, so it was mostly a funny last letter from Grandma.
#43 She Was Proud
My grandmother had her breasts done when she was in her 60s. Nothing really wrong with that, but when she died, she wanted an open casket with her breasts on display. Really, Nanna? She passed away at 80 and got exactly what she asked for. Grandad had ended up sticking two strategically placed daisies on her boobs. So she got what she wanted and so did grandad.
#44 Smart Grandpa
My grandfather passed a few hours ago, but my grandmother came to me after with a navy blue tie featuring pink elephants. It was ridiculous-looking, but she said that he wore it to intimidate people in the business. Someone willing to wear such a ridiculous tie doesn’t care about what people think. That scares people. So he wanted me to have it so I could do the same.
#45 Pretty Great Request
My great grandfather had a pair of socks that he only wore on Christmas day with the family. They were hideous. After he passed, we found out he left those socks to my uncle in his will and told him to carry on the tradition, which my uncle has done. I’ve already been told I’m getting them next.