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X marks the spot: Legacies outside the box…

Having been raised on a televisual and literary diet of capers, adventures and swashbuckling, we at legalmatters remain slightly disappointed to find that the amount of Will legacies involving treasure maps are rather thin on the ground. Setting aside the compliance and logistical headaches, we have always been a fan of a deceased individual setting out a series of tasks, each one more cunning than the last, in a bid for their relatives to race against the clock to discover their worldly goods buried in a field just outside of Totnes, or similar.

Now with around 60% of the UK population currently without a valid Will, that leaves a hefty chunk of UK citizens with no clear instructions as to what happens on their death. If you are one of this majority, perhaps you are looking for some inspiration. Maybe the traditional “all to spouse and then to my children” route is not for you. Well whether it’s non-standard gifts, or unusual methods of dispatch, we have collated some of the more colourful published Will terms out there as food for thought.

Lis-bon vivant

As near to film-script worthy as we have come across, is that of the fabulously named late Portuguese Aristocrat Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara. The childless bachelor randomly picked 70 names from the Lisbon phone book to be the beneficiaries of his considerable estate.

Determined that nothing should go to the state, the ‘wealthy loner’ left his 12-room apartment in central Lisbon, a house near the northern town of Guimaraes, a couple of healthy bank accounts, a luxury car and two motorbikes to be divided amongst his random heirs in 2007. Each walked away with several thousand euros worth of legacy.

Hair Apparent

Wealthy Brixton resident Henry Budd left the sum of £200,000 in trust for his two sons Edward and William back in 1862. The overriding proviso being that neither of them grow a moustache or their inheritance would be forfeited.

That same decade, a Will prepared in for a Mr. Fleming, an upholsterer of Pimlico, left £10 each to each of his male employees that did not sport moustaches. Those who persisted in wearing the facial hair would see their legacy reduced by 50% to £5 each.

Staying with the theme of the pursuit of the hirsute, Napoleon Bonaparte‘s last Will and Testament directed that his head be shaved and his hair be distributed among his friends. Whilst not exactly the most traditional of gifts, should any of the original recipients have kept hold of their bequests, they may be more generous that initially thought. A lock of the ex-Emperor’s hair found in a house in Camberley, Surrey sold at auction in 2005 for £9,000 (including auction fees). That same year, a single strand of hair from Napoleon’s head, sold for £130 at auction in Dorset.

One man’s Treasure

Scottish Novelist and Victorian teller of tales, Robert Louis Stevenson left a jewel of his own to his good friend, Annie Ide. The Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde author bequeathed his very own birthday of 13 November. Annie’s fell on 25 December, Christmas Day and she had always felt cheated. The great man himself died in 1894 whilst struggling to open a bottle of wine with his wife on the island of Samoa. There are surely worse ways to go…

Floral Tribute

Celebrated Comedian and Actor in the 1930-60’s, Jack Benny, was also a true romantic to the end. Following his death in 1974, he directed in his Will that a large sum of money was left to a local florist. However, the Will went on to stipulate that the florist was to send a single long-stemmed red rose his wife of 47 years, Mary Livingstone, every day for the rest of her life. By the time Mary died she had received over 3,000 red roses.

Gallows’ Humour

And to end on rather an uncharitable note, a list compiled by London genealogists Fraser and Fraser ranked the Will of Annie Langabeer as being number one for most bizarre legacies. On her death in 1932 at the age of 59, she left her brother-in-law Daniel Jones, 2shillings and 6d to buy a rope to hang himself with.

It should be noted that not all of these requests were successfully carried out. If you would like advice for drawing up yours or your clients’ wishes, do get in touch with one of our solicitors who would be delighted to help enshrine your wildest dreams (where legally possible)! Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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