Our previous blog article, ‘More wacky wills’, highlighted a few of the more inventive instructions that have appeared in wills over the years.
As well as legally defining who gets what, wills are also a great way of specifying your funeral wishes. While you might think an element of common sense and moral decorum would prevail, loved ones are often surprisingly accommodating when it comes to fulfilling a person’s final wishes, even if some of them are just plain bonkers:
Sandra West was a Californian socialite who left $3 million in her will to her brother, along with instructions that she was to be “buried in my lace nightgown, in my Ferrari, with the seat slanted comfortably.” Her brother complied with this wish, perhaps prudently pouring in a few tons of cement for good measure to deter anyone who was tempted to dig up the $300,000 car.
The inventor of the Frisbee was Ed Headrick, and it seemed perfectly obvious to him to request that his ashes be added to the factory production mixture so that Frisbees could be made enabling him to be part of his invention forever. His family followed his wishes exactly, shared out some of the plastic platters among themselves, before selling the remainder as special edition Frisbees with the proceeds going to charity.
And as recently as 2008 relatives of the recently-deceased inventor of the Pringles can, Fredric Baur, learned that one of the stipulations of his will was that his ashes be buried in...yes, you’ve guessed it; a Pringles can.
Some people say they want to go out with a bang. Hunter S Thompson was a controversial journalist/author who was known for his ‘counter-culture’ outlook in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Having first embraced and then later battled a long relationship with drink and drugs, he committed suicide aged 67 in 2005. Without much to show in the way of assets by the end of his life, his will nevertheless requested that half his ashes be incorporated into fireworks to be used at his funeral, and the other half then shot out of a cannon. Actor and good friend Johnny Depp was more than happy to foot the bill, and the celebrations culminated with over 200 guests (many from Hollywood circles and the US Senate) being covered in Mr Thompson’s powdery remains as they sprinkled back to Earth.
If you thought that couldn’t be topped, then our final will hero demonstrated a way of boldly going where no one had gone before. Gene Roddenberry was of course the incredibly successful creator of Star Trek, and when he died in 1991 his will revealed a dear wish to somehow have his ashes sent into space. It took a few years to arrange, but in 1997 a rocket finally launched a small spacecraft/satellite into orbit, where Mr Roddenberry’s ashes stayed until the spacecraft failed and burned up in our planet’s atmosphere in 2002. (Actor James Doohan, who played Chief Engineer Scotty in Star Trek, made a similar journey in 2012 after he died in 2005).
So as you can see, making a will needn’t be something to dread.
You don’t have to be buried in your car, become assimilated into a Frisbee or a firework, or be blasted into space. But you can specify exactly what you want to happen at your funeral, and you can also name exactly who gets your stamp collection, your jewellery items, your collection of Delia Smith cookery books, and anything else you own.
A will is your chance to show your nearest and dearest how much you care for them. But of course, if you want to, it could be one last opportunity to remind everyone you knew of what a great personality they’re going to miss.
That’s why we think wills are a must.