Robin Williams is blocking an Aladdin sequel even after he died. His will has provisions that Disney cannot use his voice from outtakes from the original movie until 25 years after he passed (so the year 2039!). When drafting an estate plan (a trust or a will), there are countless ways to distribute your possessions (or postpone them). Recently, I had the opportunity to read some of the worst, or should I say “interesting” distributions that was specified in a will or trust. The question becomes not whether you “can” put something in your plan, but whether you “should.” Most people we meet with want to minimize problems after they pass, but without the right guidance in drafting their plan, these strange distributions or requirements create the biggest problems.
Let me describe some of these interesting bequests:
- Upon a certain gentleman's death, he requested that the doctor drive a wooden stake through his chest. It wasn't because of vampire fears, but simply to ensure he was dead. He further insisted that the casket not be nailed down, just in case he needed a means to “escape.”
- One famous singer decided that, at the time of her death, her cat would live in a lap of luxury. The cat was 13 years old, at that time of her passing. It was fed only baby food imported from the US, and lived in a seven foot tree house.
- TM Zink was a man that admittedly hated women. At the time of his death, he had a small estate of roughly $100,000. He asked for the amount to be placed in a trust for 75 years. At the end of that time, it was to be used to open a womanless library. The library was to feature no written works, art, decor with any relation to a woman or speak of one. The family contested the request and the court did overturn it.
- Jack Benny was a lovable guy. His sweetness survived him. In his will, he arranged that his widow receive a long stem rose to be delivered every day for the rest of her life. She lived another nine years.
- One of our famous magicians notated 10 words that he claimed he would communicate with his wife from the grave. For 10 years, his wife held séance’s and finally gave up after never making contact with him.
- Gene Rodenberry, creator of Star Trek, asked that his ashes be launched where no man has gone before. Some of his ashes have made a trip around earth. In 2016 there is a plan for the remainder of his ashes to be launched into space, along with his wife’s. (interesting side note, one of his daughters was disinherited because she started to contest his will, and the Court of Appeals felt that was enough to trigger the “no contest clause”)
- Sandra (Ilene) West a wealthy socialite had insisted that she be buried in her night gown, sitting in her Ferrari. Her brother-in-law was to receive $2 million if the request was carried out, but only $10,000 if it was not. After unsuccessfully fighting the request in court, he buried her as she requested. However, he encased everything in cement to deter thieves
- Mark Gruenwald, a writer and editor for Marvel Comics insisted that his ashes be mixed with the ink to be used in the printing of upcoming comics. He received his wish!
- Napoleon Bonaparte requested that his hair be set aside and used for bracelets. These bracelets were then sent to his relatives.
- Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her dog, Trouble, along with a list of very detailed instructions. In the end, the court reduced the amount to only $2 million, but the Maltese was still very well cared for in a Miami Beach resort.
Just because you can put it into your plan, does not mean you should. Provisions that you are able to put into your trust can vary widely. Some can be very difficult to administer as well as very costly. Through our office, you can get the advice and counsel as to what the effect would be if you choose to distribute in an uncommon way. What we want you to do is make a choice that would result in a good estate plan, both for you while you are alive, and when you are gone.
Contributed by Morris Hall PLLC Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney and Senior Partner, Dan R. Morris.
About Morris Hall, PLLC:
At Morris Hall, PLLC we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 45 years. Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects. We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Carefree, Tucson, Oro Valley, Prescott, Sedona, Flagstaff and Arrowhead. Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.