“Wills are serious business. They are supposed to spell out how one would like their assets distributed after their death. But in some cases they are used to send messages – or settle scores – from beyond the grave,” says Yagana Shah in the Huffington Post.
- Under a provision in comedian Jack Benny’s will, a single long-stemmed rose was delivered to his widow Mary after his death in 1974. This continued for nine years until Mary herself died in 1983.
- Businesswoman Leona Helmsley left the bulk of her $12 million fortune to her dog “Trouble”.
- German poet Henrich Heine left his assets to his wife with the stipulation that she must remarry.
- Toronto lawyer and businessman Charles Millar’s will dictated that a cash sum should be given to the Toronto woman who birthed the most children in the decade following his death. (Four women tied for the award with nine children each.)
- Just two years ago, property owner Maurice Laboz left his $40 million estate to his two daughters with the stipulation that they would receive the money at age 35. The only way they could request money earlier is by reaching certain milestones, including graduating from an accredited university, marrying mates who agreed not to touch the inheritance, and haviing had no children out of wedlock.
The Laboz will is an example of a “conditional will”, which depends on the occurrence or nonoccurrence of some uncertain event. Laboz’ will designated the person to be in charge of carrying out his wishes after his death. A will may also be used to designate guardians for minor children.
Of course, your will is not the only tool with which to accomplish your estate planning goals. Your plan may include trusts, powers of attorney, living wills, and healthcare powers of attorney.
Whichever tools turn out to be most appropriate in protecting you, your assets, and your loved ones, proper estate planning puts you in charge of your finances and spares your loved ones:
At Rebecca W. Geyer & Associated, we agree – wills are serious business. But estate planning is also a way to think about the messages you wish to convey, perhaps both now and beyond the grave.