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Write a Will

In the UK we don’t seem to be very good at writing a will.

write a will


Fewer than half of UK adults have done so. That leaves 26 million people with no formal instructions for what should happen to their possessions on their death.

Is it perhaps that we’re just not imaginative enough? After all, for some people a will is not just a list of bequests. It’s a chance to leave a loved-one a final thoughtful gesture, or to upset their family by leaving everything to the dog.

Writing a will –  10 Strange Bequests

Here are 10 strange bequests (sourced by the Guardian newspaper) left in wills for anyone needing a little inspiration.

A daily rose

Legendary US comedian Jack Benny left an unusual but touching instruction in his will when he died in 1974. His widow Mary was to receive one red rose every day for the rest of her life.

Anonymous donation “to clear the national debt”

A public-spirited donor made a half-million pound bequest to Britain back in 1928. It is now worth more than £350m. Unfortunately, the anonymous donor was very specific about how the money should be spent. It should only be passed on once it is enough to clear the entire national debt. Sadly, the total national debt currently stands at £1.5tn and so the country can’t touch the money.

A boozy weekend

We all like to think that our friends will raise a glass to us when we’ve gone, but Roger Brown made sure of it. The 67-year-old lost his life to prostate cancer in 2013, leaving behind a secret bequest of £3,500 to seven of his closest friends. The only condition was that they use it for a boozy weekend away to a European city. 

The “second-best bed”

Poor Anne Hathaway, aka Mrs. Shakespeare, has gone down in history as being snubbed by the Bard from beyond the grave. In his will, Shakespeare left her his “second-best bed” while the vast bulk of his estate went to his daughter Susanna.

$12m to a dog

In 2004, billionaire hotelier Leona Helmsley left instructions for her $4bn (£2.5bn) fortune to be spent caring for dogs. Her nine-year-old Maltese, Trouble, received $12m (£8m) in the will. Her grandchildren were either cut out of the will or ordered to visit their father’s grave annually in order to inherit their share.

Trouble’s inheritance was later cut to just $2m (£1.2m) by a judge, although the dog still needed to go into hiding amid death and kidnap threats.

Flowers for Sidmouth

When self-made millionaire financier Keith Owen, 69, was diagnosed with cancer and given just a few weeks to live, he decided to donate his entire £2.3m fortune to his favourite holiday spot, Sidmouth in Devon.

The money was given to the Sid Vale Association, with the stipulation that some of it was to be spent on one million flowering bulbs to keep the coastal town awash with colour. His will specifies that the capital should not be touched, but that the interest – about £150,000 a year – be spent on maintaining the town and two nearby villages. 

A new husband

For some embittered spouses a last will and testament is actually a last chance to insult their life partner one more time. So it was for German poet Heinrich “Henry” Heine who left his estate to his wife, Matilda, in 1856. There was a condition that she re-marry, so that “there will be at least one man to regret my death”.

A legacy of bitterness

Michigan millionaire Wellington Burt used his will to put his enormous wealth out of reach of his family for almost a full century. When he died in 1919, his will was discovered to specify that his vast fortune would not be passed on until 21 years after the death of his last surviving grandchild.

She died in 1989 and the 21-year countdown ended on November 2010. About 12 people discovered they were beneficiaries of the strange will, described as a “legacy of bitterness”, and they shared a fortune estimated to be worth $110m.

A wife for a gay son

When Frank Mandelbaum’s will was read in 2007, it was discovered that he had left behind a $180,000 trust fund for his grandchildren. There was one additional clause, though, which concerned his son Robert.

Robert’s children would only inherit a share if Robert agreed to marry their mother within six months of their birth. One small problem: Robert is gay and is raising his son, Cooper, with his husband.

Seventy strangers from a phone directory

It’s the stuff of daydreams and film scripts. When Portuguese aristocrat Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara wrote up his will, he left his considerable fortune to 70 strangers randomly chosen out of a Lisbon phone directory.


To discuss your will please call us on 01535 662644 and speak to one of our experienced Wills, Probate and Elderly Care team.