Did you hear the one about the woman who wanted to be buried in her nightgown in her Ferrari? It’s no joke, it happens to be one of the many strange will requests that have made the news over the years.
Unusual last wishes are nothing new in the estate planning business, in fact, there are several famous last wishes throughout history, including:
- Napoleon Bonaparte left a wish to have his head shaved and the hair divided up amongst his friends. This wish was carried out, in fact, a recent analysis of some of the hair that was kept revealed that it contained large amounts of arsenic. His symptoms prior to death are consistent with arsenic poisoning, but there is also speculation that the walls of his room contained arsenic, which was not uncommon at the time, and that it was his environment that killed him, but others believe that he was being slowly poisoned by the English.
- In the late 19th Century, John Bowman, a Vermont businessman, left a last request that his staff prepare dinner every night in case he or his family, who died before him, returned from the dead and were hungry. He created a trust for his staff to stay on and keep the house clean and the meal ready, which was done until the trust ran out of funds 50 years later.
- Eleanor E. Ritchey, heiress to the Quaker State Refining Corporation, left her estate to her 150 dogs when she died in 1968. The will was contested, and in 1973 the dogs received $9 million, while family members reportedly settled for much less. By the time the estate was finally settled, nearly half the dogs had passed away. When the last dog died in 1984, the remainder of the estate went to the Auburn University Research Foundation for research into animal diseases.
Whether your last wishes are as colorful as these, or purely pedestrian, you need to create a will or create a trust to make sure your loved ones know your final wishes. In fact, it is best to discuss them with your family and attorney during the estate planning process. Hopefully, they talk you out of any truly outlandish requests!