I just came across this hilarious article in Times Online (see here) about the 10 strangest bequests ever. Below is the Cliff Notes version (although the article is worth reading in full!):
10. Gene Roddenberry, creator of the Star Trek television series, appropriately had his ashes blasted into space on a satellite and distributed as it orbited the earth.
9. German Countess Carlotta Liebenstein left a staggering fortune of 139 million German marks to her beloved pet dog when she died in 1991. The hound and his offspring were able to live in the lap of luxury in a mansion with a personal maid, chauffeur and customized pool.
8. Eccentric lawyer Charles Vance Millar was well known in Toronto, Canada, for his love of practical jokes and he saved the best until last. He bequeathed a large sum from his significant estate to the woman in Toronto who could produce the most children in the ten year period after his death. The resulting contest, after his death in 1926, became known as the Great Stork Derby. The four winning mothers each received $125,000 for their nine children. The pranks didn’t end there. Millar’s will also left shares in racetracks and breweries to anti-gambling and temperance supporters. Three men who were known to despise each other were granted joint lifetime tenancy in Millar’s Jamaican holiday home.
7. American housewife Mary Kuhery is reported to have left her husband $2 as long as he promised to spend at least half of it on a rope with which to hang himself. In 1960 Samuel Bratt grasped the opportunity to get even with his wife who had never allowed him to smoke. He left her £330,000, a huge sum back then, provided that she smoke five cigars a day.
6. When misogynist American lawyer T.M. Zink died in 1930 he left $50,000 in trust for 75 years by which time he hoped that it would have grown to $3 million. He decreed that the fund should then be used to found the Zink Womanless Library. The words “No women admitted” were to mark each entrance and no books, works of art, or decorations by women were to be permitted. His family challenged the will and won.
5. Juan Potoachi gave 200,000 pesos to the Teatro Dramatico in Buenos Aires in 1955, on condition that his skull be preserved and used as Yorick in Hamlet.
4. Harold West was so worried that he would become a vampire after his death, in 1972, that he left strict instructions that his doctor “drive a steel stake through my heart to make sure that I am properly dead”.
3. Predeceased by his wife and two daughters, John Bowman, from Vermont, America, was convinced that after his death, in 1891, the family would be reincarnated. In anticipation, he left a trust fund for the maintenance of his 21-room mansion, including a demand that servants prepare dinner nightly in case the Bowmans were hungry when they returned. The money ran out in 1950.
2. An 83- year-old Danish widow left the equivalent of half a million Danish crowns to six chimpanzees who lived at the Copenhagen Zoo. Senior Deputy Judge Christian Notlevsen, who read out the testament in front of their cage, said the heirs had behaved better than many people he had seen in court during readings of wills.
1. The last wish of Donal Russell, from Springfield, Oregon, was to have his body skinned, his hide tanned like leather and then used to bind books of self-penned poetry. The 62-year old wordsmith stated that his body “be skinned from the head down and tanned for the purpose of face binding volumes of my verse.” The squeamish funeral directors refused, so his widow asked the courts to help her honor his wishes. The request was turned down because it violated laws about what could be done to human remains.