When someone dies, they typically have a will where all of their personal belongings, property, and other assets are divided up among their family, friends, and sometimes random people. These documents are often cut and dry and nothing more than a little family drama comes of them. However, there are times when the wills can be a bit crazy.
A Reddit thread recently asked attorneys, estate planners, and family members to share the strangest thing they've ever seen in someone's will. With responses ranging from being buried with beloved pets to making a list of insane demands in order to acquire personal belongings, these people were put through a great deal to settle their estates. All posts have been edited for clarity.
"I am a qualified solicitor, my favourite two are:
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.
Another 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."
"I’m the executor of my grandmother’s will. I also get the house and everything in it as well as a share of her life insurance that is to split three ways between myself, my sister, and my mom.
My mom has always said that all my dad, my grandmother's son-in-law, would like to have is some table. Well, in the will there’s a entire paragraph that explains how my dad gets nothing, and he doesn’t lay a finger on anything in the house or any money. It goes on to state that my dad is basically worthless and deserves nothing and how he was a horrible dad and that she begrudgingly has my mom in the will.
My parents aren’t winning any greatest parent awards or anything, but they weren’t terrible people and never abused us. My grandma just always thought my dad was worthless and doesn’t really like him, so I guess she feels her will is a great way to drive that point home. The worst part is she makes me the messenger. Thanks grandma, I’ll appreciate the awkwardness."
"My aunt and uncle 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 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 the family can figure out the rest.'
It ended up being millions of dollars in homes, a lakefront property, jewelry, valuable antiques, vehicles, life insurance policies, stocks, bonds, gold coins, and so much more.
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."
"My great-uncle's will was the stuff of legend:
'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 heathens. To Jane, I leave all of my monetary assets, save $5,000 and my best weapon 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.'
When Jane was 9 years old, she told her mother that John had touched her, and her mother told her she deserved it for dressing like she did. My great-uncle took Jane in and raised her, and his two kids got exactly what it said. His son also got a truck and technically the 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, and he was right.
Bill got his five grand. He didn't get arrested though because John had a warrant out for his arrest, so they didn't dare call the cops. Bill did kindly inform the police of his whereabouts a few weeks later."
"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 a multi-million dollar trust for one single beneficiary which happened to be the son of the deceased. What's interesting is that the son killed the parents with a hammer in grotesque and brutal fashion. He said he heard the voices of serial killers (Manson, Bundy, etc.) telling him he had to get the hammer and attack. He really was crazy.
Since he plead insanity, he wasn't convicted and thus the trust wasn't void.
He would call once a year from the mental hospital, requesting $50 for commissary (to buy chips and gum). The call was always strange and a bit chilling."
"I read a lot of estate documents as part of my job. There is so much subtle shade in them occasionally, 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 (one pet owner might receive $3,000 a month to take care of one of her pets after she passed), and 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.
In that same will and trust, she also left a slew of people only one dollar, so that there would be no chance they could take the trust to probate court on the basis that they were merely forgotten. That part had SO MUCH SUBTLE SHADE. A lot of 'they know what they did,' and 'they are well aware of their guilt in the matter.' Then she split up about $2 million among five or six different animal rescues and animal welfare charities.
It was around 200 pages long, and I swear I read the entire thing just for the sheer entertainment value."
"My grandfather and his law partner opened a small law firm 'out of a broom closet,' in a small Midwestern town in the '50s. Most of their cases were wills and contracts, small town stuff.
His very first client was an old farmer who wanted his will made, that left, among other things, a stuffed dog to his only son.
By the mid-'60s, the firm was rapidly outgrowing their tiny office. A local lawyer died suddenly, leaving his office in the town square up for grabs. My granddad and his partner ended up getting an awesome lease on this huge law office in the town square, 30 yards from the courthouse.
Their first client, the old farmer, died the very day they got the keys to the new office. His son was the first client at the new office, and he came in with the dog while they were literally moving boxes. He dealt with his father's estate, and planned his own estate. And then he asked my grandad to store the dog for a week while he fumigated. My grandfather agreed to put the dog into an unused office, and the guy went on his way.
When my granddad moved the dog into an upstairs office, he found a locked wall safe that hadn't been mentioned in the lease. The property owner had no idea it was even there, let alone the combination, and told my grandad he could have whatever he found.
My granddad called his best buddies, a couple of young lawyers, doctors, a realtor, and the local mortician, to come help him crack the safe. They tried to crack the safe, even using one of the doctors stethoscopes. Much to their chagrin, they failed miserably. Feeling defeated, they finally called the local locksmith, who managed to get it unlocked. They paid the locksmith before he looked inside, not knowing what sensitive material they might have found.
That was a good call. There was no money, but they found a mason jar full of hashish, and a couple of quarts of moonshine. It all magically disappeared, and by complete coincidence the parties they threw were the stuff of small town legends.
The guy came back for the dog a week later, and my grandfather told him that he thought the dog was a lucky charm. The guy redid his will a few years later, and left the dog to the firm. It was still there when I was a little girl in the '80s. Every time my granddad would bring me to the office, I would pet it the whole time."
"I had a very attractive woman with terminal cancer try to get herself stuffed by a taxidermist and given to some rich guy that had been basically a sugar daddy to her for a few months.
She said, 'He would give me a million dollar a week allowance as long as it was in an official will that he could see.'
I sent her to a lawyer who I knew that would do about anything for a buck because I didn't want to end up in the news when she died. That was two years ago and I don't have a clue what happened to her."
"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."
"My grandfather, a Vietnam War veteran, suffered from PTSD. It got worse in his later years, and he would often isolate himself from the rest of the family, hiding out in his bedroom when visitors were over.
My grandmother would often tell us stories about how he had inherited a significant amount of money from his father way back when. She said that in their younger years, he often spent his inheritance on luxurious dates and trips. After returning from war, he spent the remaining money on a house in which he and my grandmother settled and raised their children.
Upon his death, we found out he had written a will. Even my grandmother didn't know about it.
We all had assumed he wouldn't have much to leave since most of the money he had saved from his time in the military was going towards taking care of him as he was placed in a care facility as his condition worsened.
His will told of a warehouse in Township, Michigan, that held a large collection of vintage cars. He said that the warehouse was passed down from his father, and he had all the documents to prove that he was the owner of some type of warehouse. His will estimated that the cars were worth an excess of $2 million. The money from his collection would be split between his four children.
We had no idea this collection ever existed. My father and his three brothers had all grown up in Plano, Texas, and none of us had ever been to Michigan before. Even our mother couldn't recall a time of our father ever having even gone to visit Michigan.
After a long debate, my father and I, the only ones who could manage to find some time off from work, agreed to fly out to Michigan to see this collection first hand.
After a few thousand dollars spent on plane tickets, hotels, and other expenses, we finally arrived at the warehouse my grandfather owned. It was a rundown warehouse, but it was tucked away within a compound of other warehouses that seemed to be otherwise well taken care of.
Finally, with code in hand, my father punched the numbers into the keypad and the giant door began to rise. What was inside was beyond words.
There was absolutely nothing. Besides a few homeless people that managed to sneak in through a hole in the corrugated metal around back, there was no car collection.
We were able to contact a few owners of the neighboring warehouses and to their knowledge no one and nothing had ever been inside of those warehouses in the years they had been there. To this day, we don't know what happened. We all just assume that the PTSD caused him to create some kind of fantasy in his mind. That maybe he purchased the warehouse believing it was a safe house for him if he ever needed to get out of Plano."
"My friend’s father was insane. He was born poor and had polio. He got through that, served in WWII, and built a vast business empire that included 10 businesses in various industries, nine rental homes in three states, bunch of cars, and personal property. He sent his five kids and their kids to college and took care of his infirm wife for 11 years without a break or assistance.
But he was also a bully. He refused to tell his kids anything, forbade them from knowing about his condition or visiting him in the hospitals for the four years it took him to die. He had transferred all of his assets to a living trust and used a variety of shoddy lawyers to make sure his setup kept running for two years after he died with his kids blind to it.
It took almost a decade for the kids to get access, figure out what he had, and unload it. Almost half of his fortune was burned up during that time, and no one had any clue as to why he did it aside from stubbornness."
"My grandmother owns a large farm that is to be sold on her death with the money divided in a predetermined way between all her children and grandchildren. Well, this guy suddenly married my mother after she got cancer (they were dating prior but once she got cancer they were married within a year). When the guy was out at my grandma's, he was asking about property lines and such and my grandma realized he was trying to size up my mom's inheritance.
My grandma surmised that on my mom's death bed she would request that her inheritance go to the new husband and my grandma couldn't refuse her last wish.
So she changed her will to say that if my mom died before my grandma, my mother's inheritance would become $1 and her sons' inheritance would increase by the difference. That way she could say 'Yes, your inheritance goes to your husband,' and when she died, he would get $1.
Everyone is still alive now and she survived the cancer. There are rumors the marriage isn't going so well, which increases everyone's suspicion he was hoping for her to die and collect a windfall."
"I work for a lawyer who writes wills.
We’ve had a lady put in her will that one of her adult sons was not to receive his share until he visited a dentist and the other son lost 70 lbs.
Another lady put in her will that she wanted her cats cremated with her when she died. We told her that’s not going to happen, human remains and animal remains do not get cremated at once. So she settled on cremated separately and joined together, then buried together.
Typically wills are about 10 pages (for the average person). We had a lady who had a 56-page will. She detailed EVERYTHING from her house to people: 'wooden ladle to [family member],' 'toilet paper holder to [family member],' 'magazine basket to [family member], that kind of thing. She did that for every single item in her house.
We had a man put in his will that his family was to go to the zoo immediately after his burial. We thought that was more heart warming.
We had a lady that told us to put in her will that she wanted to be buried on her property next to her husband. She lived on a small rural property. Totally illegal to have human remains buried there. Refused to tell us whether her husband was cremated or not and had dictated that she did not want to be cremated.
Then we work with many people from a certain religion. A lot of people we do wills for leave at least 90% of their estates to the church instead of their families."
"The city I work for was renovating a small park that was donated by a family in the 1910s. We went looking through the hand-written deed for easements or other restrictions and found that the family could take 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 attachment just to be on the safe side."
"My grandfather's will had several conditions for our inheritance. Most were kind of out there.
The will was broken into several sections. The first section dealt with the estate itself and basically included all of the financial parts. My grandfather spent his life in finance and investing.
The following sections broke down by family member dealt with the belongings. There wasn't much left because most of it had been given out after my grandmother died many years ago, but 99% of it was all sentimental stuff that would have gone to that person anyway. The other 1% were things we wouldn't have thought of that he wanted to go to certain people.
However, those sections all contained a ton of requirements for each individual that ranged from heartwarming (I remember my uncle being required to remain the upright loving person he had always been) to the absurd. For example, my parents were both required to remain left handed. The only thing I received (or really cared about) was a 1932 Philco radio that was the first radio I had ever restored when I was like 10. I was required to promise that I'd keep the old beast, as he called it, running as long as I owned it. My daughter received a music box from my grandmother's large collection that had always been her favorite growing up on the grounds she remains the eldest biological great-granddaughter (she's s still to date the only great-grandchild.) She also received a couple of puzzles that she had helped him with when we had visited a few times before his death again on the grounds that she actually finished the things because he had never gotten around to it.
Leave it to my grandfather to give us a reason to laugh after his death!"
"My job has me reading a lot of wills and I have a great one that actually lead to law changes in my country.
About 25 years ago, the government started working on a centralized digital land registrar. One of the companies that got the contracts (split by areas) was ours.
A little simplified background on the process: citizens bring their contracts (which includes wills) or any other titles they have to prove ownership. Then we read them, document, work on them, create the maps, solve disputes. Next, we post the maps online. Finally, citizens are allowed to post objections and go to trials for ownership if there are still disputes. They are also allowed to make new claims with a fee.
When we post the maps online, there are always lots, fields, and other areas that are empty, given to 'unknown' because their ownership is long forgotten.
And now to the will.
After the posted maps on a rural area there comes a guy that said he found his aunt's lost will. And the will goes like this:
"I am writing my last will. I want my son to take my field in location X. I want my daughter to take my house in the village. And my beloved nephew that I adore will be the new owner of my fields in locations Y."
The will was handwritten.
It was an obvious scam trying to gain ownership of 20 lots with 'unknown' ownership.
Since then, the laws have been changed to make it harder for people to pull off such scams."