Will Aid

Leaving a smile along with your legacyLeaving a smile along with your legacy

Writing a will gives you the opportunity to have the last word on your worldly possessions. But it can also be a chance to have the last laugh too. Here Peter de Vena Franks, campaign director, takes a look at the funniest will requests in history.

Almost 20% of people who haven’t written a will have failed to do so simply because they don’t want to think about death. 

But writing down your last wishes needn’t be a morbid task at all.

Many of the solicitors we work with say that clients find the process cathartic. And that once it is done they feel relaxed and content knowing that they have made positive steps towards protecting the ones they love.

Some even find the experience enjoyable – an opportunity to not just pass on their possessions, but a smidgeon of their personality too.


Have the last word

To ‘have the last word” is to have the final, definitive pronouncement on a subject or decision. 

And an unusual benefit of writing a will is that it enables you to say or do things that you might not have the courage to when you are alive. 

In the 1800s one man left his employer one shilling to buy a book on manners for example.

In another will, Matthias Flemming shared his dislike of facial hair. He left his employees £10 each in 1869; those with moustaches only got £5 however.

Then there was Sara Clarke of Bournemouth who directed in her will: To my daughter, I leave £1 – for the kindness and love she has never shown me.

And Anthony Scott, who, in his last will and testament, wrote: ‘To my first wife Sue, whom I always promised to mention in my will. Hello Sue!’


The last laugh

Some people believe their will is an excellent place to leave their loved ones with a final giggle – often by using a set of terms and conditions.

In 1862, Henry Budd died leaving £200,000 in trust for his two sons on the condition that neither grow a moustache for example.

More recently Roger Morris of Penzance left £250 for the RNLI but said it could only be spent “on a booze-up for the members and helpers of the Penlee lifeboat crew.”

Norman Earnest Digweed’s will entered the hall of famous wills when he directed that his estate of £26,000 be placed in trust for 80 years for Jesus Christ should he return within that time. He didn’t.


Famous wills

There are a number of famous faces – historical and modern day - who have used their last words to maximum effect.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s last wish was that his head be shaved and the hair divided up among his friends. In a strange twist to the tale, a recent analysis of some of the hair that was kept by his friends, it was discovered that it contained large amounts of arsenic. His symptoms prior to death (vomiting dried blood) is consistent with arsenic poisoning. 

Famous contortionist Harry Houdini insisted in his will that his wife hold an annual séance so he could reveal himself to her. 

Houdini left his wife a secret note with 10 randomly selected words that he would communicate to her after his death. For 10 years his wife held a séance on Halloween but Houdini never turned up.


Starman causes a stir 

David Bowie's will revealed that he had left shares in a mystery company.

The 69-year-old star, who passed away in January after a battle with cancer, reportedly left his friend and personal assistant, Corinne Coco Schwab, $2 million, along with shares of stock in a company called Opossum Inc.

But it's unclear what Opossum actually does or whether it even exists and the singer's lawyer is yet to comment.

This has led some fans to come up with a conspiracy theory about the name.

An oppossum is a small North American marsupial with “a propensity to play dead when he doesn't want to deal with a situation confronting him”.

And theorists are now surmising whether the star’s death was a hoax and he is in fact, secretly still alive.

That or he has successfully had the last laugh.


Make a will with Will Aid

Will Aid is a will-writing drive held every November.

It works with law firms across the country who pledge a portion of their time to write basic wills in exchange for a donation for charity.

The scheme supports nine of the UK’s best-loved charities and has raised more than £17 million since it launched more than 25 years ago.


Leave your own legacy 

Talking about death and planning your own funeral is never going to be the most pleasant conversation you will have.

But it could turn out to be one of the most important ones.

And remember, writing your will doesn’t have to be a painstaking process. You can also use it to leave a smile along with your legacy. 

With Will Aid, there has never been a better time to do it.