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3 unusual Wills of historical figures

Your last Will and testament is a necessary document ensuring that your estate and wishes for after your passing are duly executed, and has been a customary approach to impending death for centuries. As every individual has different wishes for what they would like to do with their estate, understandably, some bizarre requests appear in Wills – for example, leaving money to the family dog. These strange notions haven’t only occurred in recent years – unusual bequeaths have been revealed in some of the Wills of the most famous historical figures.

1. Robert Louis Stevenson

Esteemed author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a myriad of much-loved novels such as ‘Treasure Island’, but one of his most interesting reads was a strange bequeath to a 12-year-old girl.

In 1981, Stevenson offered the use of his own birthday date to the daughter of the U.S Commissioner to Samoa, Ida, as she had been born on Christmas Day, and according to the author, denied the right to a “proper birthday”. In a legal document and letter addressed to the Commissioner, Stevenson transferred the right to his birth date at the event of his death. With the understanding that he would no longer be use of it anymore, he wished that Ida would celebrate her birthday in a customary manner, including the “sporting of fine raiment, eating of rich meats and receipt of gifts”.

2. Harry Houdini

It’s unsurprising that escape artist and magician Harry Houdini would have unusual requests in his Will. A magician never reveals his secrets, and Houdini maintained this mantra would stay in place after his demise. Houdini left his book of tricks and new concepts to his brother on the basis that if he too were to pass away, they would be destroyed.

In a final, strange act, Houdini left his wife a secret code of ten words he would say to her if she were to conjure him through a seance to indicate his presence, and demanded that these to be in occurrence every anniversary of his death.

3. William Shakespeare

World-renowned playwright William Shakespeare had a wicked sense of humour that resonated throughout his written works – including his last Will and testament. While one daughter was given £150 and his other was left with jewels, the Bard chose to leave his wife, Anne Hathaway, with only his “second-best bed”.

All laughs aside, your last Will and testament is a legally binding document, and should be handled seriously and professionally to avoid Will disputes. For legal consultation regarding contesting a Will, get in contact with our team at Gerard Malouf & Partners.

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Contesting Wills
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