Famous Will: Duhaime's Famous and Outrageous Wills

Duhaime's Famous and Outrageous Wills

Jump straight to the List of Famous & Outrageous Wills.

"All that's mine when I am dead, goes to Jessie.

"Enough said."

This succinct Will is that of Alfred M. Heston of Atlantic City, New Jersey, circa 1937. One of the shortest and most bizarre, it is still just a sampling of the wills of the rich, famous, strange and even outrageous.

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To change a gift made in a will is an invasion of a person's constitutionally-guaranteed rights to dispose of their private property as he or she sees fit. The right of private property is a core legal value in a democracy's social, economic and political order. Thus, the law of most free and democratic societies in the world allow a testator to do as he will with his own. An individual may give with such conditions as she pleases, subject only to the restriction that the conditions shall not be clearly illegal. The courts bend over backwards to give effect to the intention of the testator.

Duhaime's Famous Wills logoIn the 1956 case called Girard Will Case, published at 127 A. 2d 287, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania echoed words that could be enshrined upon the halls of estate and probate law throughout the common law world:  

"Respected men and women, as well as eccentric people, sometimes make sound and sometimes eccentric wills. Courts, heirs and excluded beneficiaries often wish they could change or delete clear and plain and specific language, or rewrite a will to expand or change the testator's bounty in order to conform to what they believe would be fairer or wiser, or to conform to what they think the testator would have said if he had foreseen the existing facts and circumstances. But that is not and never has been the law of Pennsylvania!...

"[I]t is and always has been the law of Pennsylvania that every individual may leave his property by will to any person, or to any charity, or for any lawful purpose he desires, unless he lacked mental capacity, or the will was obtained by forgery or fraud or undue influence, or was the product of a so-called insane delusion.

"While it is difficult for many people to understand how or why a man is permitted to make a strange or unusual or an eccentric bequest, especially if he has children or close relatives living, we must remember that under the law of Pennsylvania, a man's prejudices are a part of his liberty. He has a right to the control of his property while living, and may bestow it as he sees fit at his death."

The List

Famous or outrageous last Wills of the well-known, and not so well-known, provide a glimpse, in some way, to their author's eccentricities, what they truly value as the proximity of death brings out the best and worse.

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Published: Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Last updated: Monday, March 10, 2014
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