Pets, charities, even a favourite Chinese restaurant… here are ten wills that have bequeathed a lot of money to some very different beneficiaries.
Image: Andrew Milligan - PA
Your last will and testament is your final chance to do something good for those you love or the things you care about most in life. Or, of course, you could always use your last wishes to exact revenge on those left behind. The choice is yours.
And, as history shows, there are many ways people choose to be remembered - both good and bad. Here are ten last requests that make for interesting reading.
1. Something for the villagers... and her moggie
Everyone over the age of 60 who has lived in the village of Solva in Pembrokeshire for more than 20 years is to receive a share of £400,000 left to the villagers by Margaret Allen in her will. As well as the 120 people who will receive around £500 each, she also remembered her ginger tom, Brutus, and left £3,000 "to any person whom the executors agree to taking care of my cat to avoid it being put down or going into a cattery".
The carers who looked after her in the last few years of her life were given £25,000, the local memorial hall had £10,000 and the same amount went to local churches, while Solva Luncheon Club had £5,000 to be spent on drinks at Christmas.
2. Millions gone to the dogs (and cats)
Grace Smith from Alves in Moray left almost her entire estate of more than £7 million to animal welfare organisations, with almost half going to the Dogs Trust. And she left Winnie, the lurcher and Harry, the collie, and a cat called Puss Puss £50,000 to ensure all three animals "live out a happy and healthy natural lifespan". The extent of her vast wealth only became known after her death, when it emerged that she had made most of her vast fortune from playing the stock market from her 18th-century home.
3. It's a dog's life with £90 million
The wealthiest pet in the world is said to be a German shepherd dog called Gunther IV, which inherited a reputed £90 million fortune in July 2000. Gunther IV inherited his fortune from his father, Gunther III, who had been named as the sole heir of the estate of his owner, a German countess by the name of Karlotta Liebenstein, who left her estate of £43 million to her pet dog when she died in 1992. The dog is said to have a property portfolio that includes estates in the Bahamas, Italy and Germany.
4. Death threats for pampered pooch
Trouble, a small white Maltese terrier, was forced into hiding after being left £6 million by her multi-billionaire owner. New York hotelier Leona Helmlsey, who excluded two of her four grandchildren from her will, instructed the executors of her estate, valued at between £2.5 billion and £4 billion, to spend the rest of her entire charitable trust on the care and welfare of dogs.
5. No monkey business
Eight years ago Patricia O'Neill, the daughter of the Countess of Kenmore, left her £40 million fortune to her pet chimpanzee, Kalu. Mrs O'Neill, who was married to the former Australian Olympic swimming star Frank O'Neill, had rescued the chimp from captivity in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and taken it to live with her at her home in South Africa.
6. Whatever floats your boat
Catherine Barr left £2.6 million of her £3.5 million fortune to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). Her only condition was that the RNLI should buy a new vessel and dedicate it to her late husband Dr John Buchanan Barr, a war hero. She said she wanted an inscription on the boat saying: "He saved so many lives during the war."
7. £10 million fortune leaves couple in a pickle
When Golda Bechal, a Mayfair millionaire with a property empire that stretched across the south-east of England, left almost all of her £10 million fortune to her favourite Cantonese restaurant, she left the recipients in a pickle. Kim Sing Man and his wife Bee Lian Man ended up in a court battle against Bechal's surviving family, who vigorously contested the will. They asked for her wishes to be declared invalid on the grounds that she suffered from dementia, but the court ruled the couple could keep the money. The trio had become close friends, spending Christmases and going on holiday together. Mr Man delivered portions of Bechal's favourite Cantonese dish of pickled leeks from his Essex restaurant to her Grosvenor Square home until her death in January 2004.
8. Widow unearths $10 million lottery win
When Donald Peters, a 79-year-old man from Danbury, Connecticut died, his widow Charlotte was too upset to carry on their decades-old tradition of buying two state lottery tickets each every week. However, when she finally got round to checking the tickets her husband had bought, she was in for a surprise. She discovered he'd picked a winning ticket and she was the recipient of a $10 million fortune.
9. Gone but not forgotten
It seems some people use their last will and testament as a means of getting their own back on the recipient. In 1974, dentist Philip Grundy left dental nurse Amelia White £181,000 on condition that she didn't go out with men or wear make-up or jewellery for five years. While Samuel Bratt, whose wife would not let him smoke, left her £330,000 when he died in 1960 he did so on condition that she smoked five cigars a day.
10. The man of letters whose wishes were denied
Writer George Bernard Shaw had grand ideas when he wrote his will. He left a substantial proportion of his estate for the purpose of replacing the standard 26 letters of the alphabet with a more efficient one of at least 40 letters. George Bernard Shaw left more than £500,000 and the royalties from his plays earned during the first 21 years after his death to be spent on developing the Shaw Alphabet. However, his will was successfully contested by other hopeful beneficiaries and an out-of-court settlement awarded the Alphabet Trust a meagre £8,300. And to this day there are still only 26 letters in the English alphabet.
Please note that articles on MSN Money do not constitute regulated financial advice, which recommends a course of action based upon the specifics of your personal circumstances. The articles are intended to provide general personal financial information. We urge you to consult an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) before making any important decisions about your finances. You can search for an IFA in your local area. Any statement regarding financial services products and tax liability is based on legislation and tax practices as at 6 April 2011, which is, of course, subject to change. The value of any tax benefits or reliefs depends upon the individual circumstances of the investor. When investment performance is mentioned you should remember that past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Where products have an underlying investment content, in many cases the value of the investment can fall as well as rise. For with-profit based investments, there is no guarantee as to the level of bonuses that will be declared, if any. Where mortgages or secured loans are explained do remember that your home is at risk if you do not keep up repayments on a mortgage or other loan secured on it. All mortgages are subject to underwriting, status and are not available to people under the age of 18.
Do you support the new banking inquiry?
Thanks for being one of the first people to vote. Results will be available soon. Check for results
- Yes, I think the Big Four are too powerful and resistant to change
- 80 %No, I don’t believe it will result in real change that will benefit the consumer