Your last will and testament is an opportunity to share one last part of yourself with your friends and family. There are so many ways to learn how to write a will that might surprise you. Though these are typically thought of as sorrowful, sad documents, they can actually be laugh-out-loud funny.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- 1. Solve National Debt
- 2. Shakespeare’s “Second-Best-Bed”
- 3. The Wealthiest Pooch
- 4. Phone Book Heirs
- 5. Remarriage Clause
- 6. The Great Stork Derby
- 7. Facial Hair
- 8. Talking to the Dead
Like a legal final wishes organizer, the last will is a way to share your end-of-life and estate preferences with your loved ones. From who gets your favorite necklace to how you want to be buried, all of these details are outlined clearly in your will.
Though it might sound morbid, reading examples of last wills can help you find inspiration to write your own. This is especially true for last wills that are truly hilarious. Here’s a list of our favorite last wills to make you laugh out loud.
1. Solve National Debt
One U.K. resident used his final will and testament to solve a national problem: debt. In 1928, a fund was created after an anonymous British individual left all of his wealth to pay off the “entire national debt.”
While this might sound like a valiant, patriotic effort, it didn’t go quite as planned. The fund is only to be used once it’s grown large enough to pay the entire national debt. Today, the funds have grown to £350m. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough to match the £1.2tn national debt in the U.K.
While this is likely to get a few laughs, you can’t deny this donor had the right idea in mind. Who knows? Maybe one day it will grow large enough to solve the national debt once and for all.
2. Shakespeare’s “Second-Best-Bed”
When it comes to famous wills, few are as hilarious as the Bard himself. William Shakespeare was notoriously unhappy in his marriage towards the end of his life. He left his wife, Anne Hathaway, his “second-best bed” in his final will. The majority of his estate went to his daughter, and his wife was snubbed from beyond the grave.
Historians have long reviewed Shakespeare’s final actions in his estate plan, wondering if this was an act of humor or pettiness. Some believe his wife was more than provided for, and this was merely a last joke between the pair. Others argue that this was the Bard’s final insult in an unhappy marriage.
3. The Wealthiest Pooch
Many people include details for how they want their dogs and pets cared for when they pass. From pet funds to assigning a guardian, these are modern, proactive steps. That being said, the wealthy hotel magnate Leona Helmsley took this even further in her own will.
When she passed in 2007, she left clear instructions in her will that her entire $5bn trust should be left to her dogs. In the trust’s mission statement, she specified her trust was only to be used for the care and welfare of her dogs.
While this might sound outrageous on its own, there's more. Two of her grandchildren were purposefully excluded from the will. While others had a combined inheritance of $10m, her nine-year-old Maltese received $12m by comparison.
4. Phone Book Heirs
When wealthy Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral de Camara wrote his will, he wasn’t sure who to include in his list of beneficiaries. Though he was from noble Portuguese lineage, he was notoriously unhappy and had few friends. With no offspring of his own, he took an untraditional approach to choose his heirs.
This Portuguese man actually chose 70 names at random—from a phone book. His random heirs walked away with around 7,000 euros each. That’s not a bad sum for a random act of final giving, especially considering each name was chosen completely at random.
5. Remarriage Clause
Sometimes, final wills are used to spite a partner one last time. For poet Heinrich Heine, he vowed to give all his property to his widowed wife on one condition: she needed to remarry.
While this might sound like a romantic way to encourage your widow to move on, it was far from it. Because his wife was known to be boring and incredibly vain, Heine actually stated that if she remarried “there will be at least one man who will regret my death.”
6. The Great Stork Derby
Some estate plans are truly laugh-out-loud funny. Charles Vance Miller, a prominent Canadian attorney, passed in 1926. He died a childless bachelor, and he always saw himself as a joker and prankster. As such, his will followed his unique sense of humor.
In his will, Miller poked a lot of fun at his colleagues. For example, he requested for his Jamaican timeshare to be shared among three attorneys who he knew hated each other. However, the most ridiculous part of his will was the Great Stork Derby.
Miller requested that all of his remaining possessions be converted into money within 9 years of his death. In the 10th year, the money was to be used to pay a Toronto mother who had the most children within that 10 year period. Ultimately, 4 families ended up receiving a $120,000 payout for having 9 children.
7. Facial Hair
Family members and business owners alike often include unique, personal clauses for their beneficiaries to follow. For Henry Budd, his clause was around facial hair. In 1862, he left £200,000 in a trust for his 2 sons on one condition: neither of them grow a mustache.
Budd wasn’t the only one who disliked facial hair. In Matthias Flemming’s will, his employees in 1869 were left with less money if they had mustaches. It might sound petty, but it just goes to show the power of creating your own will.
8. Talking to the Dead
In his final wishes, famous escape artist Harry Houdini gave his wife a list of 10 random words and told her to host yearly séances. He wanted to prove whether or not it’s possible to speak with the dead.
Every year for 10 years, his wife followed his final wishes. Though she hosted these séances on Halloween, the most spooky night of the year, she never heard any of Harry’s secret words. Still, the legacy of his work lives on even if he’s not able to communicate from beyond the grave.
Creating Your Own Final Will
Your will is very much a part of your legacy. For these true and laugh-out-loud wills above, it’s easy to see that people have used their final wishes as a way to craft their own legacies for hundreds of years. From Shakespeare snubbing his wife from beyond the grave to putting pets first, there are no limits to how you can express yourself with your own will.
Have you created your own final wishes? You can start by thinking about your preferences and values with Cake’s free shareable platform. By sharing your account with loved ones, you start the conversation around what matters the most to you.
From there, it’s never been easier to make an online will from the comfort of your home. No matter your budget or needs, everyone deserves their final wishes to be heard. Whether you use your will to connect with loved ones, complete any unfinished business, or just bring a smile to the faces of others, this is an important document to have.
- “Anonymous £350m fund stuck in legal limbo.” BBC News. 17 August 2013. BBC.com.
- Glaister, Dan. “Queen of Mean: Leona Helmsley leaves $8bn for care of dogs.” The Guardian. 2 July 2008. TheGuardian.com.
- “Last Wills - Last Laughs.” Christ Thomas Wills Trusts & Power of Attorney. Chris-thomaswills.com.
- “No escape: Why people still try to contact Houdini from beyond the grave.” The Telegraph. 31 October 2019. Telegraph.co.uk.
- “Shakespeare’s Last Will and Testament (1619).” Shakespeare Online Biography. Shakespeare-Online.com.
- Tremlett, Giles. “Wealthy loner picks heirs from phone book.” The Guardian. 15 January 2007. TheGuardian.com.
- “Who Says an Estate Plan Can’t be Funny?” Streeter Law Group. StreeterLaw.com.
- Zabel, William D. “About Men; Last Will and Testament.” New York Times. 20 May 1984. NYTimes.com.