Estate planning need not be boring! Tie in a man without any legal heirs, an adopted child of a celebrity, a greedy son, or a well-loved pet, and you've got a recipe for a humorous estate planning story. Read on for estate planning tales about omitted children and laughing heirs.
1. An Illinois man recently left his million dollar estate to soap actors he never met. Kevin Brophy, who starred in the 1977 TV show "Lucan," and Peter Barton, who appeared on the daytime soap "The Young and the Restless" in the late 1980s, found out about being beneficiaries of the estate when owner Ray Fulk died last July. The executor of his estate says he is trying to get the actors to come to Illinois to host a fundraiser in the decedent's honor, with proceeds going to animal shelters.
2. J. Pemberton Casey included a dying wish in his will: "I leave to my banker, Mr. Hubert Pingrey, the sum of 1,000 pounds, provided that, within six months of my death, he walk the length of Bond Street, at midday and not on a Saturday or Sunday, dressed in women's clothing, which should give him an inkling of the feelings to which he subjected me before advancing me a loan." (As told in The Complete Book of Wills, Estates, and Trusts by Alexander A. Bove)
3. Being the adopted child of a celebrity has its perks. Music legend Jimi Hendrix died at age 27 in 1970 without a will. Under state law, his dad, Al, got everything, leaving his close brother Leon with nothing. Al built Hendrix's musical legacy into an $80 million venture, but in his own will cut out Leon and his family, in favor of his adopted daughter through a later marriage.
4. The will of Edwin O. Swain provided: "To my dear friend Mrs. George Hale, I give and bequeath the satisfaction of being remembered in my will; and I leave my lawyer, Huber Lewis, the task of explaining to my relatives why they didn't get a million dollars apiece." He died penniless. (Alexander A. Bove)
5. Barbara White had a certain fondness for her husband, as expressed in her last will and testament: "I leave to my husband, Dom Witte, the sum of Five Dollars, to be given to him at the rate of ten cents a month, because he was so good to me." (Alexander A. Bove)
6. Serving as executor of a will may not be so bad at all, if you were named in the will of Wayne Morris: "One hundred dollars shall be expended by my executors for the purpose of buying booze and canapes for my friends. On second thought make it three hundred dollars because I don't want my friends to go away sober or serious." (Alexander A. Bove)
7. Relying on do-it-yourself documents normally garners the feeling by beneficiaries of "you get what you pay for." Take Chief Justice Warren Burger for example. He died in 1995 with a $1.8 million estate and a will of 176 words he typed up himself. There's something to be said for brevity, but in this case, his family paid $450,000 in estate taxes, something that could have been easily avoided. And his executors had to pay to go to court to get approval to complete administrative acts, such as selling real estate, that typically a well-drafted will would have allowed without court approval.
And a bonus tale--a father disgruntled with his greedy son left in his will: "To my son, I leave the pleasure of making a living. For your whole life, you thought the pleasure was mine."
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