Nothing can ever replace a loved one…but money and property sure do help. Reddit asked lawyers and bereaved people of the Internet to share their wackiest and downright messed-up encounters with last wills and testaments. We can’t take our stuff with us, but we can sure use it to mess with our family from beyond the grave. From sibling rivalries to post-mortem taxidermy, let’s close the casket on these creepy stories about weird wills put into law.
1. A Post-Mortem Addition to the Family
A lady confessed she had a secret daughter, and she wanted to leave the daughter some money and photographs without the rest of her family finding out. Even her husband does not know. That will be a fun conversation when she passes away.
2. Salt of the Earth
Lawyer here. I once amended a will for a doctor in which he disinherited his son by removing everything he had intended to bequeath and replacing it with a “manure spreader.” I didn’t ask any questions because changing a will is an easy thing to do. But one day, that doctor will die, and his son will have essentially be told to “eat excrement.”
3. Surprises Comes in Twos
My estate planning professor told us about a guy who had two families, neither of which knew about the other until it was time to read the will. This wasn’t like a love child/mistress type scenario, both were nuclear multi-kid families. Both families showed up for what had to be one of the most awkward will readings in history. I don’t really know how he pulled it off, other than that he was away on “business” frequently.
4. Better Taxidermy Than Estate Tax, Am I Right?
In my trusts & estates class in law school, we read a case about a man who left everything to his wife, but only if she got his body stuffed and left it on the living room couch forever. Luckily for her, the court invalidated that part of the husband’s will. If I recall correctly, part of the reasoning was that it would make it impossible for her to date/remarry if she had her husband’s creepy dead body glaring at anyone who came to see her.
5. An Avocado a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
A lady wanted to create a trust fund of £100,000 for her pet fish. When I asked if it was a special kind of fish, she confirmed it was just a normal goldfish, but she wanted it to be fed fresh avocado every day and be looked after by a local dog walker after she died. She was absolutely serious.
6. The War of the Wills at Home
I’m the executor of my grandmother’s will. I also get the house and everything in it, and a share of life insurance that’s split three ways between myself, sister, and mom. My mom has always said that all that my dad (my grandmother’s son-in-law) would like to have is some random table. Well, in the will, there’s a whole paragraph that states how my dad gets nothing, he doesn’t lay a finger on any thing in the house or any money. It also says how my dad is basically worthless and deserves nothing, and how he was a bad dad and that she begrudgingly has my mom in the will. Thanks Grandma, I’ll appreciate the awkwardness.
7. You’re Never Ready for the Final Take-Off
A relative worked for a firm preparing wills and was confronted by an executor who had an edict to “scatter the deceased’s ashes from a microlight aircraft.” He couldn’t fly one. She kindly pointed out to him that the drafting said nothing about whether said microlight was in flight at the time of scattering.
8. Grandpa’s Coffin Isn’t the Only Fun Box
When my grandfather passed, his will asked that I clean out his shed, and I alone. I found seeds and old reel style adult film, which was hilarious, and a bunch of other unsavory paraphernalia. 50s flick knives too.
9. Rest in Peace, or Else
Might be late to the party and I’m not a lawyer, but my great-grandad had a clause in his will that stated something along the lines of, “If any of the beneficiaries decide to dispute the contents of the decedent’s estate, their share becomes $1 and nothing else.” Seemed like a pretty good way to maintain harmony among his survivors.
10. Between a Rock and a Hard Place
I’m not a lawyer, but my grandfather saved his kidney stone so that he could leave it to my cousin. They never really got along.
11. Open in Case of Abduction
I had a Russian client. Son of an oligarch. His father created a trust that gave provisions for if he was kidnapped and not found within a certain number of months. Freaked me out. I believe the will had similar language too, but I can’t remember now. Now that I think about it, I believe there was a separate document (in addition to the trust) that provided that his will should be effective to the extent he was kidnapped and not recovered within a certain period of time.
12. Purrrfectly Petty
Just last week, I handled a matter where the parents left millions in artwork to various people, wads of cash to various charities, and only left their kids the family cats. Turns out, they did it because the kids got them the cats to comfort the parents in their old age, and the parents freaking hated the cats, but the kids wouldn’t let them get rid of the cats.
13. Better Safe Than Leaving Your Kids in Security
Not a lawyer, but my mom put in her will that if she dies under suspicious circumstances that my sister and I won’t be left anything. She watches a lot of true crime.
14. Every Cat Has a Guardian Angel
I read a lot of estate documents as part of my job. There is so much subtle shade in them occasionally, and they can be pretty entertaining. One super wealthy lady had a huge section for the care and well being of her pets, with primary and successor caretakers, a certain amount of money from the trust for care and feeding of each pet.
For example, one pet owner might receive 3k a month to take care of one of her pets after she passed, and there were certain stipulations on how they were to be cared for. While some might see it as excessive, the language and stipulations she had, and how they were referred to, showed that she really, really loved her pets.
15. Lost the War, But Won the Last Laugh
My great uncle’s official will gave the contents of his outhouse to the City Council of a nearby town after they’d tried to take his land twice to build a new water treatment plant. He spent quite a few years fighting eminent domain claims and just wanted to give them something in return. As a joke, his kids boxed up all the books and magazines in the outhouse and dropped them off at City Hall.
16. Not Done With Those Nine Lives?
Not a lawyer, but an aging woman my family knew left her house (large, and in a very affluent neighborhood) and estate to family friends for so long as her cats were alive and taken care of in said house. After they died, the house was to be sold and the remaining estate donated. The weird thing is, it’s been like 20 years and the cats are still alive. Also, they’ve changed color.
17. Fortune Flows Like Puppy Chow
Not a will, but a deed. The city I work for was renovating a small park that was donated in the 1910s. We went looking through the hand-written deed for easements or other restrictions and found that the family could claw the property back if the park were not “perpetually provided with a fountain of pleasant running water fit for consumption by man and beast alike.” The family still has descendants in town, so we installed a new water fountain with a dog bowl filler just to be safe.
18. Mom’s “Get Along” Clause
My sister’s mother in-law is leaving her house to her three sons. If one wants to sell out his third of the house, he has to sell it to the other two brothers for $1.
19. Nothing Is Cuter Than Cash
A furby collection from models collected in the late 90s. They were convinced they would retain future value. This was 2011.
20. I Bequeath You a Bibliography
Here’s one from one of my dad’s law partners. He had a lady come in with an itemized list of books, and she wanted her will to contain all of the books and who will get what based on her choosing. So basically, she decides who gets what specific book instead of letting her beneficiaries decide. The truly astonishing thing is how many books and how specific they get. According to dad’s law partner, her list is at about 2,000 books to be divided among about 30 people. She is apparently very specific and comes back at least once a year to add all the new books she’s gotten.
21. Forgive but Never Forget (or Enrich)
My vindictive grandmother left my aunt $20 as a reminder of the $20 my aunt stole from her once.
22. Raised From the Dead
I (early 20s) was forced to write a will due to the health insurance I get at work and, amongst sensible stuff, the in-house lawyer said it was totally okay for this clause to be added: “My funeral wishes are that I be buried in a coffin which has been spring-loaded, such that opening the coffin would cause alarm to future archeologists.” Then a bunch of stuff about if this is too costly, I’ll be cremated and have my ashes scattered in a specific place.
23. No Parting Gift Like One Last Miff
“To my wife I leave her lover and the knowledge that I was never the fool she thought me. To my son I leave the pleasure of working for a living—for 25 years, he thought the pleasure was all mine.” Best dis ever. This passage was in my Wills & Trusts textbook in law school as an example of people talking smack in their wills (you’re supposed to discourage them as lawyers from doing so).
24. Not a Boys’ Club
We had a client who was a widowed farmer who owned several heavy equipment pieces (Caterpillar trucks, etc). He had two sons who were already working with him at the farm, and a daughter who was working in the city. He willed the heavy equipment to the daughter. When we asked him why, since this equipment was essential to the farm, he said that the farm was to go to his kids equally, but his daughter needed to know he always wanted her to join their venture and dispel her notions of alienation because she was a girl.
25. 100 Pennies in the Wind
My great-grandmother left her daughter “just one dollar and not a single penny more, so help me God.” This was before I was born, but my grandmother (not the daughter with the dollar) said that when they all read the will, her sister had a full-blown temper tantrum, and no one has heard from her since. I guess she had it coming.
26. Bad Neighbors, Big Secrets
My grandfather hated his neighbor. They lived next to each other for 20+ years. I remember well my grandfather raging at every opportunity about this guy. We never saw them speak to each other. In Grandpa’s will, he left the guy $10k, a car, and golf clubs. We were dumbstruck. Turns out they were good buddies from the Army. When they coincidently bought homes next to each other, they decided to play a long scam with both their families. They actually played golf together 2-3x per week and had a monthly poker game for years.
27. Dearly Departed and Stealthily Wealthy
This one isn’t necessarily crazy. It’s just an interesting glimpse into the mind of a kind old woman in her 90s. My aunt and uncle (both were more like parents and incredibly beautiful people) passed away within a few weeks of one another. When my uncle became ill, my aunt tried to work on a will with her long-term lawyer, but she was kinda just old and out of it. Her main concern the entire time was small knick-knacks like a jar of pennies she wanted a distant cousin to have or a used jacket from the 70s she bequeathed to a sister-in-law.
It was quite touching how much time she spent carefully considering each item and who would get it. Most of the items were used and didn’t even really hold any sentimental value, she just wanted them to go to good homes. When she passed away, everyone knew exactly who was getting each odd item. The real kicker is when the lawyer told the primary beneficiaries that she never got around to the bigger assets and all that jazz.
She basically told the lawyer, “Pay for our funeral and anything we owe and then family members x, y, and z can figure out the rest.” It ended up being millions in homes, lakefront property, jewelry, antique firearms, vehicles, life insurance policies, stocks, bonds, gold coins, etc. etc.
Luckily, the family is very close and everything went off without a hitch. They were amazing people who wanted to keep family items in the family, they just didn’t put that much weight on their incredible wealth. They also hid their wealth amazingly. We all knew that they were very comfortable, but no one had any idea they were deep into eight-figure assets. It was just funny to see a random niece get a set of plastic cups, worn dance shoes, and a check for $125,000.
28. Can’t Put a Price on Homemade Memories
When my dad’s mother died, her will stipulated that everything was to be liquidated and the money distributed equally between her children and grandchildren. Fine, but literally everything had to be sold. There were family heirlooms, jewellery, things my grandfather (a carpenter) had made. So many sentimental family things that my father and his siblings badly wanted, but it all had to be sold.
They all went to the auction to try to buy some of the more sentimental items, but weren’t always successful. It was heartbreaking, and I’m not sure what made my grandmother think it would be a good idea. Nobody wanted the money; they wanted her wedding ring and the clocks my grandfather had made and all that.
29. Throwaway Lines
A good clause is always “for reasons known to them,” which is will-speak for “you’ve gone and screwed up, jerk. I don’t forgive you.” In my own will, I’ve left my father “The contents of my kitchen trash can at the time of my passing, for reasons known to him.”
30. Every Decimal Makes a Difference
My grandfather left me $1.00. He had dementia, and confused my dad ripping him off with me. He left the rest of the family between $100,000 and a few million each. They all said they felt horrible because they knew the details, but not horrible enough to give up any of their share. The way I see it is, it was never my money to begin with, so it’s not a loss. I’m just glad my sister got a hundred thousand; she needed it more than any of the others.
31. See You Soon, Mom!
Not a lawyer, but my grandmother’s will stated that my father had to outlive her by a certain amount of time (I honestly don’t remember exactly how long, I was 15). My father died less than a month after she did, so instead of things going to my father, the next step was the estate being divided between me, my sister, and two cousins. It was so bizarre!
32. This Clause Is Worthy of Paws
One summer, I worked as an administrative assistant to a lawyer who worked in wills and estates. Most of it was the usual petty arguing about percentages of money, but one couple was deeply concerned about which of their children would receive the urn with the ashes of the family’s long deceased cat. “Wouldn’t want to play favorites.”
33. The Green Is Always Greener on the Other Side
Someone had left an entire golf course that he owned and managed in secret to his son. They were avid golfers, but always went to another course. I still don’t know why someone would lie about owning a golf course.
34. Hello, Ghosts of Christmas Future
My father’s going to read his will to us before he dies (presuming he’s not taken suddenly). Imagine Christmas but depressing.
35. You Can’t Cook up a Clause Like This
My own grandmother specified which of the children and grandchildren should get which of the family recipes, and somehow felt the need to include commentary about why certain decisions were made. One recipe was this Prohibition-era recipe for beer that I knew my uncle, also a home-brewer, wanted, but she left it to me, with the comment that, “I know you wanted it, Teddy, but she has the second-best penmanship of the girls and will make you a copy.”
And then like eight pages later, in among the specific descriptions of her vast collection of romance novels (really), was a line: “And [specific Jude Devereaux title] to Spidey, who will please subtract about half the hops before she copies the beer recipe for her Uncle Teddy so that any of us can drink it. Our Jon had his IPA last summer and just about died.”
Uncle Jon just about burst into tears laughing, and Uncle Teddy had long since left the room because he has no darns whatsoever to give about romance novels. And no, I have no idea how she got this will done. My guess is she wrote it herself and the law students who come to her independent-living building signed off on it. It was…elaborate, that’s for sure. Total value of the estate was well under eight thousand dollars, so it was mostly a funny last letter from Grandma.
36. Death Is a Top-Heavy Subject Matter
My Grandmother had her boobs done when she was in her 60s. Nothing really wrong with that, but when she died, she wanted an open casket with her boobs on display. Really Nanna? She passed away at 80 and got exactly what she asked for. Grandad ended up sticking two strategically-placed daisies on her boobs. So, she got what she wanted and so did Grandad. RIP Granny, you silly cow, I love you.
37. One Flew Over the Solicitor’s Nest
Not a lawyer, but I worked with plenty of estates and trust accounts over the years. This particular scenario isn’t so much about the will itself being strange, but the circumstances that led up to the trust account being opened. I used to work at a bank in the estates department. I was an administrator who had to manage the files, including encroachments upon the capital (i.e. “I want to take some money out now, please”).
I had this one account—a multi-million-dollar trust for one single beneficiary, the son of the deceased. What’s interesting is that the son killed the parents…with a hammer in grotesque and brutal fashion. He plead insanity.He would call once a year from the penitentiary/mental hospital, requesting $50 for commissary (to buy chips and gum). The call was always strange. He was very polite, very doped up. The quality of the call was always very “tinny,” like he was far away from the phone.
38. The Prodigal Son Returns (and Hoards Your Stuff)
My client’s maternal grandpa was wealthy. He divorced their maternal grandma, remarried, and promptly dropped dead of a heart attack. He was only 48 and had no will, so everything went to his new wife. She was actually really nice and was planning on making sure that everything was “fair”…until she died in a car accident 6 months later. That was the beginning of the nightmare.
She was a widow herself prior to marrying her husband, and had a now-orphaned 15-year-old son from the previous marriage who got everything. The client’s mom and her siblings had to go to the auction at their childhood home and buy back as much of their heirlooms and memories as they could afford (and, truthfully, stole some of what they couldn’t).
39. Revenge Skips a Generation
“To my daughter Anne, who created my beautiful granddaughter Jane, and her dear fourth husband John, who laid hands on My Jane: I leave one dollar, you money grubbing jerks. To Jane, I leave all of my monetary assets, save $5,000, and my best gun which I leave to my son Bill, on the condition that he beats John bloody during the time between my funeral and my burial. Jane, bail your uncle out of jail, please.”
Other than names, this is the exact wording of a great-uncle’s will. At age nine, Jane told her mother that John had molested her, and her mother told her she deserved it. So, Great-Uncle took Jane in and raised her, and his two kids got exactly what it says. His son also got a truck and technically a house, although he only kept it until Jane was a legal adult and could afford the tax on it.
Bill got full custody of Jane when his father died, and he put every penny of her money into a trust fund to mature when she was 25 because he felt like his sister would try to get the money. He was right. And in case anyone wondered, yes Bill got his five grand. He didn’t get arrested, though, because John had a warrant on him, so they didn’t dare call the cops. Bill did kindly inform the police of his whereabouts a few weeks later.
40. I’m Taking Mew With Me
I worked with a client who wanted language that her cats would be euthanized and buried with her. We had to explain why legally we couldn’t do that. The moral part just went over her head. One of the few clients who ever got under my skin.
41. Is It Hot in Here, or Is It You?
I had a client who had a toxic relationship with his uncle. When his uncle passed, he was surprised to find he was in the will. Turns out there was a handwritten IOU that read, “I’m leaving you 15k BUT you have to come get it from me. I’ll see you in hell!” My client laughed.
42. Some Things Are Worse Than Nothing
When my client was 18, his dad wrote him out of the will before suddenly passing away. The strange thing was that they always got along. It seemed very suspicious. He was then kicked out of the house by his father’s evil wife without a penny to his name. On Christmas Eve, the client went back to get some photos he left there and saw something he shouldn’t have. It was then that he learned just how evil she really was.
He knew where she kept the spare key, so he let himself in. On the way to his room he saw the step-mom’s phone sitting on a table and as he passed by she got a text message. The message read something like, “I’m so happy we got away with it and we can finally be together. He didn’t deserve it anyway.” The client was convinced that, at the very least, she forced his dad to take him out of the will. However, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it could be worse than that. He kept saying that he thought it’s possible she had something to do with his death. Or maybe she changed the will herself somehow. Unfortunately, because there was no evidence, there wasn’t any proof of wrongdoing. The whole thing really struck a nerve with me and I lost a bunch of sleep over it. But I am happy to report that I recently ran into the client and he is doing much better. He just started law school and is planning to go into estate law to help people get through problems like the one he had. I hope one day to hire him.