We’re all going to die, that’s for certain and no matter how many material possessions and wealth we’ve managed to accumulate none of it is going with us. Some people couldn’t care what happens to their money after they die, after all, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’re not going to have to worry about it where you’re going. But other people want to know that the legacy they worked hard to create is used in accordance with their wishes.
Dying without a will can create a lot of trouble and hardship for the people you leave behind– that’s why people are urged to make sure that they have a last will and testament held by either a bank or lawyer. That way your final wishes can be met and your money and possessions distributed in a way you deem fair.
Today we are looking at some unusual requests left behind by famous people in their wills. From wanting to be flown into space to leaving vast sums of money to their pets these celebrities have done it all. So if you want to know the final wishes of folks like Janis Joplin, Alexander McQueen, and Marilyn Monroe, read on.
15. Benjamin Franklin – Don’t Let My Daughter Wear Jewelry
Founding father, Benjamin Franklin, suffered from obesity from middle-age onwards and it’s believed that this contributed to his death. He died of pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining of the lungs, at the age of 84.
When his will was read a surprising clause was soon noticed. Among his final wishes, he asked that his daughter, Sarah, “not engage the expensive, vain and useless pastime of wearing jewels”. Seems a little strange, doesn’t it? Why ask a woman not to wear jewelry?
The reason for this strange request was actually quite simple. Franklin also left a portrait to his daughter, which he had received as a gift while he was an ambassador to France. The painting depicted King Louis XVI and the elaborate frame was studded with 408 glittering diamonds. Franklin left the request to prevent his daughter from removing the diamonds to make jewelry.
14. Mark Gruenwald – Mix My Ashes In The Ink
Mark Gruenwald’s notable works included comics such as Captain America and he was known to have a brilliant sense of humor. He was also an avid practical joker, so much so that when he died suddenly at the age of 43 his friends thought that is was just another joke. Gruenwald had been spotted just a few days before performing one of his famous cartwheels in the office.
Gruenwald was passionate about comics in life and in his will he made a surprising last request. He asked to be cremated and have his ashes mixed into the ink of a comic book. His request was honored and his remains were mixed into the ink used to print the first trade paperback compilation of Squadron Supreme.
13. Janis Joplin – Throw A Giant Party
Janis Joplin lived such a huge life but in the end, she paid the ultimate price for her hard living. She was discovered dead in a hotel room on October 4th, 1970, the victim of a heroin overdose at just 27. Just 16 days before the world had been shocked at the sudden death of Jimi Hendrix, also just 27. Throughout her wildly successful career, Janis had struggled with addiction and alcoholism.
Janis loved to party so much in life that in her will she made provision for a posthumous all night party to be held after her death. She left $2500 for her 200 favorite friends– including her road manager, tattoo artist, sister and fiancé to party it up, one last time, in her honor. The party was held at the Lion’s Share, in San Anselmo, California on October 26th, 1970. Now don’t you wish you’d been there?
12. Marilyn Monroe – We Needed More Details, Marilyn
Marilyn Monroe really should have known better. When the blonde bombshell passed away in 1962 she didn’t leave a very detailed will and it ended up having a huge effect on how her possessions were distributed. Or rather, not distributed.
Instead of a comprehensive last will and testament Marilyn left all of her belongings, including clothes and shoes to her acting coach Lee Strasberg, on the understanding that he would divide them among her family and friends. Strasberg, who is remembered as the father of the method acting technique, never gave away a single item and instead stored everything in a warehouse where it remained for the next 36 years. When Strasberg died at the age of 80 his widow auctioned Marilyn’s belongings for a cool $13.4 million.
11. William Shakespeare – My Second Best Bed
Just one month before he died William Shakespeare compiled his last will and testament where he began by saying that he was in “perfect health.” Scholars today are still unsure of what it was exactly that he died from. Nevertheless, at least he died with a will.
Surprisingly Shakespeare all but excluded his wife, Anne Hathaway, from his will instead leaving the bulk of his sizeable estate to his eldest daughter Susanna. There was a provision that she, in turn, would pass it down, intact to her first born son. Sadly his direct line died out in 1670.
To his wife he left his “second best bed”. This request was separate from the will, tacked on as if it were just an afterthought. At this time leaving someone a good quality bed was far from unusual but some scholars do think this could have been meant as an insult.
10. George Bernard Shaw – Make A New Alphabet
In case you don’t know who George Shaw was, here’s a quick biography: Shaw was a playwright and critic whose work had a sizeable impact on Western theater and culture as we know it today. He was highly intelligent and is the only writer to have ever been awarded an Academy Award and a Nobel Prize (Literature).
He had a few unusual requests in his will. Among these was a portion of money that he assigned for the development of a new phonetic alphabet. In life, he had been intrigued by the notion of a reformed way of spelling and created the 40-letter “Shaw Alphabet.” He left this money in order for the new alphabet to be promoted but a court ruled it to be impossible and assigned the money to charity instead.
9. Mickey Rooney – No One Gets Anything
Mickey Rooney was one of the last great stars of silent films and by the time he died in 2014 he had appeared in more than 300 films. He had started out as a child actor and is considered to have had one of the longest acting careers in history, spanning an incredible 88 years.
93 years is a long time to live and support yourself, and when Rooney died there wasn’t much left of his estate– only a mere $18,000. He also died owing back taxes and money for medical bills which needed to come out of the measly estate. Shortly before he died he changed his will and disinherited his wife of 35 years and 7 of his 8 children. It seems that the relationship between Rooney and his family had become strained many years before he passed away.
8. Philip Seymour Hoffman – Raise My Son In Three Different Cities
Phillip Seymour Hoffman made a name for himself as an actor by often playing the really creepy guy. And he did it to perfection. So when he died in 2014 from a suspected drug overdose in 2014 the acting community and the world was left stunned and saddened. He was only 46 years old.
Hoffman was an intensely private man choosing to hardly ever speak about his family– stating that if he did so he would be breaking their trust. Although he had three children he stated in his will that he did not want to turn them into “trust fund kids” by leaving them money and instead chose to turn his estate over to his girlfriend of 14 years. One last strange request was that his one son be raised in three different cities namely; San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.
7. Farrah Fawcett – Current Lover Gets Nothing, It Goes To My Ex
Farrah Fawcett will always be remembered for her contribution to the world of entertainment. She reached international fame for her role in the original Charlie’s Angels TV series and for the infamous red swimsuit that she posed in for a pin-up poster which went on to become the best-selling pin-up poster in history.
Farrah died in 2009 after a long battle with cancer but her death was overshadowed in the global media by the death of Michael Jackson who died a few hours later on the same day. Her longtime partner Ryan O’Neal was surprised to find that he had been left out of her will completely. She instead chose to leave most of her estate to her son. To add insult to injury she also requested that an ex-lover be given $100,000. Burn.
6. Napoleon Bonaparte – Give My Hair To My Family
Was the famous French military genius killed by stomach cancer, the treatment given to him by his doctor or slowly poisoned by the English? We’ll probably never know for sure but thanks to one of his final requests we have been given a little additional insight into what may have happened.
In his last will and testament, Napoleon requested that upon his death his head was to be shaved and that his hair be distributed to his family and friends. A very weird request at the time but now, thanks to technology some of this preserved hair has been scientifically analyzed and the results were surprising. It was found to contain a large amount of arsenic and this suggests that he could have been poisoned. Although the arsenic could also have been present in the walls, which was common around the time he died.
5. Harry Houdini – Have A Séance And I’ll Come Back
Before he was a famous escape artist and magician Harry Houdini made a living conducting rigged séances. There was a time when he believed in Spiritualism but that ended after his mother died and he was unable to find a medium who he believed was truly able to contact her. He then dedicated much of his life to uncovering and exposing bent mediums.
It’s surprising then that he made the following request in his will: he asked that a séance be conducted yearly following his death and even gave his wife Bess a secret ten-digit code that he would use from the afterlife to prove his continued existence. Bess did so but the great escapologist never returned. When she died the practice was continued by his loyal fans and still takes place every year.
4. Dusty Springfield – Take Care Of My Cat. Here’s How…
Despite the fact that she could neither read nor write music Dusty Springfield went on to become one of the most iconic singers to come out of the Swinging Sixties. Dusty died of cancer at the age of 59.
Her personal life was mixed up, she struggled with alcoholism and drug dependence as well as bipolar disorder and was hospitalized on more than one occasion for self-harm. She loved animals and supported various animal related charities during her life. She also made special provision for her pets when she passed away.
She requested in her will that her cat was to be taken care of in special ways, including playing the cat her songs and supplying the animal with specialty imported food. She also named the guardian for the cat and arranged for her cat to “marry” the guardian’s pet cat.
3. Gene Roddenberry – Take My Ashes Into Space
Writer and producer Gene Roddenberry will always be remembered for creating the first Star Trek TV series. He continued to consult on the TV show until he died in 1991 from heart failure. He was the first TV writer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and among the first humans to ever have their ashes taken up into the earth’s orbit. Impressive, right?
Roddenberry really wanted to “boldly go where no man had gone before” and in his last will and testament he requested that his ashes be scattered into space. In 1997 seven grams of his ashes were sent into space along with the remains of Timothy Leary, Gerard K. O’Neill and twenty-one other people aboard a Pegasus XL rocket which was launched from a site near the Canary Islands.
2. Alexander McQueen – Give Back To The Canine Community
Alexander McQueen made a name for himself with his creative and sometimes bizarre fashion designs but the details surrounding his death are far stranger than any clothing he ever designed.
McQueen’s body was discovered by his housekeeper on the morning of February 11th, 2010. He had committed suicide. He had taken an overdose, slit his wrists and then finally hung himself. The world was shocked by the news of the fashion icon who died just nine days after his mother passed away. McQueen was known to be suffering from depression and anxiety. His suicide note simply read “Look after my dogs, sorry, I love you, Lee.”
1. Charles Dickens – This Is What NOT To Wear At My Funeral
Charles Dickens may have lacked a formal education but that didn’t stop him from becoming one of the most highly recognizable writers in history. He wrote 15 novels including celebrated titles such as The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Great Expectations. He died in 1870 at the age of 58 from a stroke. He had put in a full day of work on his final day.
Charles noted in his last will and testament that he wanted an inexpensive and simple funeral although this, of course, didn’t happen. He also said that those who attended his funeral should be dressed in a certain way. He said, “those attending my funeral wear no scarf, cloak, black bow, long hatband, or other such revolting absurdity.” A campaigner for the poor he also left money to each servant that was employed with him at the time of his death.
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