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Some of the strangest wills of the century

Many people disburse their funds to their children—or even their grandchildren—in their wills. They might also pass down family heirlooms or other artifacts that they loved in life. However, some wills include very uncommon issues, wishes and directions for their loved ones.

Here is a look at some of the most outlandish wills over the years.

A magical will from beyond the grave

Harry Houdini is one of the most famous escape artists in United States history. There was no doubt that the man was eccentric, but a Forbes article explains that his will proved it.

Houdini created an incredibly detailed will that provided finances to his assistants, his wife and his siblings—like any ordinary will might.

However, he also provided explicit instructions that his wife must perform a séance on the night of his death for ten years. He promised he would contact her and prove that he could reach beyond the grave. Houdini even left a code in his will that only she knew, so he could prove it was him speaking to her after his death.

His wife followed these instructions dutifully. Unfortunately, the famous escape artist never showed.

A will that added another meaning to skipping generations

Generation-skipping trusts allow an individual to pass down assets specifically to their grandchildren. Wellington Burt’s will took that to another level.

Burt was an entrepreneur in Michigan’s lumber and iron industries in the early twentieth century. He accrued quite a fortune for himself, but he left none of it to his children or his grandchildren.

In his will, he added a stipulation that his assets could only be distributed 21 years after his last grandchild passed away. Burt passed himself in 1919. And his last grandchild passed away in 1989. So, descendants he did not even know finally received his assets in the year 2010.

The news that Burt's great-great-granddaughters earned millions of dollars almost 90 years after his death caused many to refer to his will as an insulting "legacy of bitterness" against his family.

Ashes to ashes

Nearly half of American citizens today choose to be cremated after they pass away. Many of those people who choose cremation leave instructions in their will of what their family members should do with their ashes.

Forbes explained some of the strangest instructions, including:

  • Gene Roddenberry, the man who created Star Trek, willed his family to scatter his ashes in space
  • Mark Gruenwald, an editor for Marvel Comics, requested that his ashes be added to the ink used to print the popular comics

Wills can be as detailed as needed

The Forbes article as well as this Huffington Post article list many more elaborate and unusual wills that people have established over the years.

And while Wisconsin families may not want to instruct their loved ones to perform a séance every year after they pass away, these strange wills do prove an important point: individuals can make their will as detailed, specific and unique as they wish.

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