Notable Wills Throughout History

Posted by Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC on March 5, 2020

When we discuss the creation of wills, we often address an obvious problem: the lack of estate planning done to prepare for the future. While our Tennessee estate planning attorneys can help you through that process, today, we wanted to highlight some of the most interesting, be it some strange, wills throughout history. 

A Regrettable Death

German poet Heinrich Heine used his will as the last chance to insult his wife. Heine left the entirety of his estate to his wife on one condition: she remarries so “there will be at least one man to regret my death.” 

Today, his widow could have refuted this as the condition would not be under her control, but rather involve another person. We think the Heine’s could have benefited from some advice from divorce mediation professionals or at the very least, some consulting.

Poor Little Rich Dog

We all know a pet owner who loves their animal like a child. But one hotel heiress took that love to a new level when she left her Maltese pup named Trouble $12 million, ignoring her family in the will.

According to ABC News, when New York Hotel heiress Leona Helmsley died in 2007, she left her estate to her dog as a way to spite her grandchildren. Her original will granted her pooch $12 million; however, a judge later knocked the amount down to a $2 million inheritance. 

Not only was Trouble taken care of, but she also included provisions for the cleanest resting place: $3 million for a once a year wash or steam-cleaned order to her mausoleum. 

A Rose Has Never Smelled As Sweet

When radio and television star Jack Benny died on December 26, 1974, after a battle with pancreatic cancer, he left a very heartfelt request and provision in his will for his wife, Mary Livingstone.

In a magazine article, Livingstone explains, ”Every day since Jack has gone the florist has delivered one long-stemmed red rose to my home,” adding, “I learned Jack actually had included a provision for the flowers in his will. One red rose to be delivered to me every day for the rest of my life.”

President Abraham Lincoln Died Intestate

Though a successful lawyer and American statesman, Abe Lincoln did not follow the advice he would have probably given to his legal clients. When he was assassinated on April 15, 1865, Lincoln died intestate, meaning he did not have a will in place for his estate. According to “Personal Finances of Abraham Lincoln” by Harry Pratt, Supreme Court Justice David Davis was asked to handle Lincoln’s affairs by his son, Robert Lincoln.

Though the first president to die intestate, he was not the last. Presidents Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, and Ulysses S. Grant also passed without a will.

Honestly, Abe. You Needed Our Tennessee Estate Planning Lawyers

Abraham Lincoln may have been a great American icon, but he certainly made a mistake by not having a will in place after his death. Be honest like Abe, but follow our estate planning advice: Don’t leave these decisions to the last minute. 

At Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC, our estate planning lawyers will guide you through the process with the compassion needed. With years of experience in estate planning and administration, we know how to best protect your assets and prepare for the unknown.

If you’re ready to create a trust, set up a power of attorney, or write your will, we’re here to help. Contact us at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC now for more information.

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