Celebrities and people with a lot of money often want their legacy to live on even after their death. Oftentimes, they also come up with unheard-of requests in their wills. Since it is a legally binding document, people get to have their way even after their death.
While most people choose to leave all their assets to their family, some have other plans. While some may tie up money in funds, give them to charities, put them aside for parties, or even have it stashed away! Then there are those who put peculiar provisions in order to get their rightful inheritance. Finally, there are those who want a whimsical wish carried out after their death - and want it done at any cost.
And ever since 1923, when it became legal to leave inheritances to pets, the number of instances of individuals leaving ridiculous amounts of money to animals have only gone up. Some dogs, cats and furry birds are worth more than the GDP of entire cities!
We list some of the most bizarre, outrageous, and over-the-top wills that stand out from the rest. For good measure, we have also mentioned five celebrities who plan to leave or have left nothing to their children in their wills. People donating wealth to their pets, wanting to be buried in space, having parties organized in their honor, and putting aside money for their resurrection - this list has it all! Take a look:
Oprah Winfrey is a brand of her own making. She has worked hard to build her life and career and has facing countless struggles along the way. The ‘Queen of Talk Shows’ is one of the most likable celebrities in the world, and is pretty famous for being exceptionally generous and giving. This is evident from the fact that she has decided to leave behind a sizeable sum of her money to her beloved dogs.
A well-known dog lover, Oprah owns five dogs. She has made arrangements that ensure the distribution of her estimated $3 billion estates to various foundations and charities upon her death.
However, she has also put aside nearly $30 million for her dogs. While that might just be 1% of her total worth, but between five dogs, that’s a lot of money!
Clearly, the dogs must be accustomed to her luxurious life and Oprah clearly doesn’t want to deprive them after she is gone. With nearly $6 million set aside for each of her four-legged friend, there is no telling how they might splurge. A private villa, an isolated island or a lifetime supply of Pedigree? They sure would have some really hard choices to make.
If the name Fred Baur doesn’t ring a bell, that’s okay. Fred came up with packaging design for Pringles, the snack that single-handedly revolutionized munching in front of the TV! While he worked tirelessly during his life to come up with better solutions for food production, storage and packaging, the patented Pringles design was obviously the highlight of his career. So much so, that he requested to be buried in a Pringles can.
When he died in 2008, at 89 years of age, his family honored his wishes. Time Magazine quoted his eldest son Larry saying, “When my dad first raised the burial idea in the 1980s, I chuckled about it.” However, soon everyone realized that it was no joke.
Hence, when Fred passed away Larry and his siblings brought a can of Pringles en route to the funeral home. "My siblings and I briefly debated what flavor to use but I said, 'Look, we need to use the original,” he says. A part of his cremated remains were placed in a Pringles container in his grave in Springfield Township, and another part was placed in an urn alongside the can. A third part was also given to one of his grandchildren.
Robert Kardashian Senior, a famous attorney on the ‘Dream Team’ that fought for O.J. Simpson. In addition to being a celebrity lawyer, Robert was also a businessman and also pioneered the idea of playing music between movies in theatres, on which he built a successful company. He was also an investor in a frozen yogurt company. All this meant that he was pretty well-off and his will was an important piece of document.
Robert married just before he passed away from cancer in 2003. This meant that his entire estate, worth nearly $30 million in 2003, was given to his then-widow, Ellen Pierson. This obviously created a rift with his Kris, his ex-wife, and their children, Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and Rob on one side and Ellen on the other. The Kardashian clan disputed the will and accused Ellen of forging the documents.
However, the will was found to be legitimate and was executed as per law. While that might have been tough for the famous Kardashian family, they surely didn’t allow it to tarnish Rob’s memories. Even today, in their hit reality show ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s, the clan sometimes brings up Robert and remembers him fondly.
Harry Houdini, the famous magician, was also very adept at conducting séances or ‘sessions’ with the souls of those who had passed away. His belief in the afterlife was rather profound, which might explain a clause in his 23-clauses-long will, asking his wife, Bess, to conduct a séance every year in order to prove life after death.
As a matter of fact, he was so sure of this being an eventuality that he had even made his wife memorize a ten-digit code, which he intended to use as ‘identification’ when communicating from the other side.
It is said that Bess dutifully conducted a séance every year on Halloween, but never once did the great magician establish contact with her beyond the grave. Reports suggest that even up until today, loyal fans continue to conduct séance in order to contact him.
Other than this one odd peculiarity, the other content of his will were rather vanilla, according to Morris Trust, a legal firm. Three of his assistants got $500 each and $1,000 were given to the Society of American Magicians. Furthermore, he requested that portions of his estate should be liquidated and passed onto family over a period of time. For his wife, 1/6th of the estate was reserved, and the remaining went to his siblings.
Marilyn Monroe had her fair share of troubles in life. The actress, who ruled the silver screen for most of her life, dominated the news cycle with events of her personal life as well. Despite her death in 1962, Marilyn continues to be one of the most well-recognized pop culture icons.
Her life and death have been under intense public scrutiny. However, arguably, the one aspect of her life that has continued to puzzle everybody to date is her will. Instead of leaving her assets to her family or a relative, Marilyn chose to bequest all her personal belongings to her acting coach, Lee Strasberg. Marilyn apparently left no other details in her will, and as a result, Strasberg continued to own all her earthly possessions in his basement until the day he died. After 36 years of Marilyn’s death, when Strasberg also passed away at the age of 80, all of her belongings were auctioned by Strasberg’s widow, who earned $13.4 million in the process.
While Marilyn’s proximity to Lee Strasberg and his wife was well-known, it was unexpected for her to leave everything behind for him. One can only guess her reasons now, and draw solace from the fact that her legacy lives on, despite it being tucked away in a garage for over three decades.
Simon Cowell is worth over $500 million, mostly on the back of judging reality TV shows. His famous and sometimes controversial career has given him the finest luxuries, which he doesn’t intend to pass onto his son, Eric. The harsh judge is actually a doting father in real life and can often be seen spending time with his boy. However, he is very sure of the kind of upbringing he wants for Eric.
In an interview with Esquire, Cowell stated, “I’m going to leave my money to somebody. A charity, probably — kids and dogs. I don’t believe in passing on from one generation to another. Your legacy has to be that hopefully, you gave enough people an opportunity, so that they could do well, and you gave them your time, taught them what you know.”” This means Eric can forget any dreams of getting a hefty inheritance from his father.
Simon himself also wants to keep working right until his 90s. He said, “A lot of people who retire, they hate their job so much, they just love the idea of not working anymore. That horrifies me. I’m going to be still working in my 80s or 90s.” And then donate all the money to charities!
To say that Gene Roddenberry, the creator of ‘Star Trek’, was fascinated with space would be an understatement. But his fascination with all things beyond earth transcended life and death. He had wished for a space burial upon his death in 1991. In 1997, Celetis Inc, a memorial spaceflight company, launched a part of his cremated remains on a space rocket which was then set into the orbit. 23 others, including Timothy Leary and Gerard K. O’Neill accompanied him on this journey.
Interestingly, Gene’s wife, Majel Barrett Roddenberry, who also played the role of Christine Chapel in the original ‘Star Trek’ series, also chose a space burial.
Upon her death in 2008, she has already made arrangements with Celetis in order to fulfil her wish to be launched into deep space with the remains of her late husband, Gene.
A spokesperson for the company said in 2009, “Celestis will launch both Roddenberrys’ remains into deep space and the spacecraft will not fall back into Earth’s orbit... Majel Barrett Roddenberry said before her death that she wanted her remains launched into space with those of her late husband.” However, the mission was cancelled in 2014 and there has been no update since.
Janis Joplin, the wildly successful American rock singer and songwriter, joined the infamous ’27 Club’ when she died on October 4, 1970 from a drug overdose. Her death hit her fans really hard, because only 16 days prior, Jimi Hendrix, another beloved musician had passed away at the age of 27 as well. Janis’s struggle with alcoholism and addiction was well-known to her fans and the public.
Anyone who lives such a fast-paced and glamorous life is no stranger to partying hard. Janis was no exception. However, she went further than most and made a provision in her will for a posthumous all-night party to be organized after her death.
She also left behind $2,500 for 200 of her closest friends (namely, here road manager, tattoo artist, sister and fiancé) to have a party to celebrate her life. As per her wishes, a party was thrown in her honor at the Lion’s Share in San Anselmo, California on October 26, 1970 and yes, it did carry on till the wee hours of the morning. One can’t help but wonder, whether the mood in the party was somber, or if the attendees really lived up to the spirit of Janis Joplin.
The world’s richest man doesn’t want his kids to have it easy. The founder of Microsoft, who has consistently been featured at the very top several ‘The Richest’ lists, has also started ‘The Giving Pledge’ with his wife, Melinda, which encourages other millionaires and billionaires to donate their wealth as well. He is also the founder of several charities and foundations, which he manages with the help of his wife. He has publically announced his plan of leaving behind his vast wealth to The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
However, he intends to support them by paying their college fee – anything post that, and they are on their own. He was quoted telling This Morning once, “It’s not a favour to kids to have them have huge sums of wealth. It distorts anything they might do, creating their own path.” Following in his footsteps, other billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, and Richard Branson have also pledged to donate their fortunes.
The Gates children will receive only a ‘miniscule portion’ of the entire estate, and the rest will go to fight diseases, and eradicate poverty and hunger. However, considering that his net worth is in excess of $85 billion, the children can expect the ‘miniscule portion’ to be rather fulfilling.
Joining Oprah in her love for dogs, the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen included his dogs in his will as well. Although his suicide, just a few days after his mother’s death, evoked shock and disbelief from the entire world, those closest to him confirmed that he was suffering from depression and anxiety. He wasn’t particularly fond of the public glare, although his creativity and innovation was well-recognized in the global fashion fraternity.
The famous fashion designer left nearly £50,000 for his dogs in his will to take care of their expenses.
He also made provisions to ensure that more than £400,000 went to various animal charities. Even his suicide note allegedly mentioned his dogs. “Look after my dogs, sorry, I love you, Lee” it reportedly said. McQueen’s £16 million also made provisions for both his housekeepers for their ‘long and faithful service.
Both Cesar and Marlene Garcia were given £50,000. Cesar Garcia is the one who discovered McQueen’s body. Furthermore, £250,000 was willed to each of his two brothers and three sisters, and £50,000 each was given to his godson, nieces and nephews. The rest of his estate was put under the trust for his Sarabande charity.
Sometimes a feud can crop up from beyond the grave. Almost 60 years ago, the wife of Samuel Bratt realized this the hard way. You can say Samuel Bratt became a celebrity after his death due to his infamous will. But he sure had the wits of one.
An ardent smoker, Samuel used to smoke cigars and tick off his wife who wasn’t a fan of the pipes. As a result, the couple used to squabble a lot. This caused a lot of stress to Bratt, and he made a rather devilish plan to get even with his wife. But he literally waited his entire life to put the said plan in motion.
After his death in 1960, when his will was read, an interesting clause was attached to the inheritance his wife was supposed to receive. The devoted husband left his entire state to his wife, but on one condition that she smoke five cigars every day for the rest of her life. Talk about being bitter! The estate, worth nearly £330,000, was no measly sum either. There is no word on whether his wife took the bargain or declined, and if she was able to live up to it. Let’s just hope she made peace with whatever choice she made!
One of the most successful singers of all times, Elton John and his partner David Furnish have two sons Elijah and Zachary. The couple has decided to ensure that the boys are brought up respecting money and hard-work, and just because they happen to have rich parents doesn’t mean things will be easy for them. Elton has gone on the record to state that most of his money will end up in charities and not go to his sons.
He told the Mirror, “Of course I want to leave my boys in a very sound financial state. But it’s terrible to give kids a silver spoon. It ruins their life... the boys live the most incredible lives, they’re not normal kids, and I’m not pretending they are. But you have to have some semblance of normality, some respect for money, some respect for work.”
His husband, David adds, “We’re still working out the details and it’s about finding the balance. Anything beyond the basic, they have to go out and earn it themselves. If they want a Picasso, they have to go out and earn it.” The couple has made arrangements to ensure that a major chunk of their $260 million ends up in charities and foundations.
Now here’s a champ chimp! Kalu, the beloved pet chimpanzee of Patricia O’Neil, the Countess of Kenmore, is set to receive nearly $80 million when his animal-loving owner passed away. Their story goes all the way back to 1985, when Patricia found Kalu tied to a tree in Zaire. Naturally, Patricia saved the chimp, took him as her own and a great bond developed between the two.
Since then, Kalu has been living a life of high-end luxury, thanks to the wealth of Patricia
In 2000, things got even more interesting when Patricia changed her will to ensure that after she passes away, Kalu enjoys his life and named him the legal heir to her house in Cape Town, easily worth around $80 million.
Patricia apparently changed her will when her husband, former Australian swimmer, Frank O’Neal, was at the Sydney Olympic Games, knowing that he would have objected to this decision. Frank and Kalu are said to have been at loggerheads with each other, and reports suggest that they never really got along. Frank might pose a challenge in Kalu inheriting his rightful assets from Patricia, but when $80 million is on the line, can Frank really be blamed?
Karlotta Liebenstein, a German countess, had a German shepherd named Gunther III. When she died in 1991, she gave him all of her wealth, which was approximately $80 million at the time. Today, Gunther IV, a direct descendant of the original Gunther, has an estimated net worth of over $370 million. That’s a lot of money for a dog!
Karlotta’s will ensured that even after Gunther III died, no one else could lay hands on the wealth meant for her dogs, and hence, the money was passed onto Gunther IV. The guardians and administrators of Gunther III and IV took some wise decisions, did not squander away the money and hence, have managed to increase the initial fortune to more than four times its size.
It might not come as a surprise then that Gunther IV today owns a variety of mansions and houses, including one which was formerly owned by Madonna. And of course, Gunther IV has his own cleaning specialist, limousine with a designated driver, and custom-fabricated swimming pool. There is no word on whether Gunther IV will pass on the legacy to Gunther V, and if he doesn’t, what happens to the vast empire.
Having spent a rough childhood with limited financial means, Sean Connery, has reportedly decided that his only son, Jason, will not receive a dime from him. At the age of 13, Sean Connery had to quit school to support his family income and although he went onto become a superstar later in his life; he apparently never forgot the struggles he’s had. Although the actor has made millions in his illustrious acting career, he knows the importance of hard-work and work ethic.
The Bond actor’s former wife, Diane Cilento, who was married to Sean Connery from 1962 to 1973, and is the mother of Jason, reportedly confirmed to Daily Mail that the actor doesn’t intend to leave anything to his son. She also stated that Sean wanted Jason to pursue a career in acting and earn his own living.
She also hinted that this led to a strained relationship between the father and the son. However, Jason later gave an interview to The Telegraph denying everything his mother had claimed, and said that he shared a good equation with his father and they haven’t had any conversation regarding his inheritance from Sean, if any. One can only speculate which version is the truth.