Pets are at the forefront of unconventional bequests, and Leona Helmsley’s dog Trouble is one of the world’s most famous four-legged beneficiaries. In addition to pets, people have left their substantial estates to very unusual and unconventional beneficiaries.
Most recently, there is news on the internet about a Tennessee man, Leon Sheppard, who left his 4,270 foot home and $250,000 to his two cats, Frisco and Jade. The will stipulates that the cats must be kept in the style they’ve grown accustomed to. When Frisco dies, the estate passes to his relatives on the condition that Jade is cared for.
A Portuguese aristocrat Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara, picked 70 random people from the Lisbon phone directory and named them beneficiaries of his estate. The designations were properly made 13 years before his death; the beneficiaries were not notified until after death.
Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde left an unusual gift to the daughter of a friend, Anne H. Ide. Anne was born on Christmas Day and did not have birthday celebrations separate from the family Christmas celebration. Stevenson bequeathed his birthday of November 13th to Anne.
Closer to home, Charles Vance Millar, a Canadian lawyer and financier known for his love of humour and pranks left an unusual will. When he died in 1926, the bulk of his estate was left to the woman who gave birth to the most children in the 10 years following his death. The will generated a lot of world wide media attention including a 1934 Time magazine report. The value of the bequest was approximately $500,000, a significant sum in that era. The bequest became known as the Great Stork Derby.
Litigation challenging the will went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The SCC interpreted the relevant clause and held that it was valid. Four women who had given birth to nine legitimate and registered children each received $125,000 each.
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