Those of us who have enough money to live on, with not much else to worry about, usually do the ordinary thing when drawing up our wills. We leave our money straight up to our spouses and our children, and maybe a little something to one of our favorite charities. My friends at Probate Sydney asked me what I thought the most entertaining stories from celebrity cases would be. Have you ever wondered how rich or famous handle their last will and testament? Here are some examples that I found:
1. Janis Joplin:
Janis’s will provided for the payment of all her bills and debts, then asked that her personal belongings and household furniture, furnishings, jewelry, pictures, souvineers,clothing and other personal effects be distributed to various friends and acquaintances. She went further to say that preference should be given with respect to the distribution of such items be given to any female roommate with whom she had resided for some time prior to the date of her death and with whom she may be residing the date of her death.
She also asked that one half of her estate be left to her parents, and one fourth of her estate to her sister, and one fourth to her brother. Aside from her personal belongings, she left everything to her family.
2. Paul Newman:
While Paul Newman left his Oscars, Golden Globes and other awards to the Newman’s Own Foundation, his race cars and his private airplane were ordered to be sold by his executor. He made it clear in his will that his hobby cars would be sold. He also made it very clear that his wife, Joanne, would receive the bulk of his estate – including all his “tangible personal property,” noting his musical instruments and his works of arts. She also would control his several production companies and his substantial real estate holdings.
3. Mark Twain:
Also known as Samuel Clemens, had a rather lengthy and detailed will, in which he left all his estate in two equal halves, in a trust to be held, and paid in quarterly payments, to each of his two daughters. He also stipulated in his will that he had discussed his wishes and desires pertaining to to the administration of his literary productions and since they were especially familiar with his wishes, his executors and trustees should confer and advise with them in all matters relating in any way to the control, management, and disposition of them, whether they were published or unpublished, and also mentioned copyrights in his will.
4. Frank Sinatra:
Frank Sinatra’s will was really interesting to me in that it named all of his ex-wives by name in the first paragraph, which made me think that he stated their names so that there would be no confusion at all concerning the fact that he did not leave them anything, except for Nancy Barbato Sinatra, the mother of his three children. He also left specific cash amounts to his children, a trust fund for his grandchildren, and named three other people by name to receive cash payments. His will did not specify who these people were or how they might be related to Frank, but a google search of the name Jilly Rizzo turned up an article that said he was Frank’s aide. Dorothy Uhlemann was his secretary, and Elivna Joubert was a friend.
Because there was long standing tension between Sinatra’s last wife and his children he added a clause to his will that automatically disinherited anyone who contested it. He left the bulk of his estate to Barbara, his last wife.
5. Benjamin Franklin:
Benjamin left his son, William, land in Nova Scotia, books, papers, and other things already in his possession, as well as forging outstanding debts owed to Benjamin by his son. Mr. Frankling wrote in his will “The part he (his son William) acted against me in the late war, which is of public notoriety, will account for my leaving him no more of an estate he endeavored to deprive me of.”
To his daughter, Sarah, Benjamin left the house he was living in at the time of his death, along with several other properties, and “also all my silver plate, pictures, and household goods, of every kind, now in my said dwelling-place, to my daughter, Sarah Bache, and to her husband, Richard Bache.” Franklin also stated in his will that he would forgive an outstanding loan to his son-in-law, provided that he “manumitted and freed his negro, Bob, immediately upon my death.”
To his daughter, Sarah, he also wrote “The king of France’s picture, set with four hundred and eight diamonds, I give to my daughter, Sarah Bache, requesting , however, that she would not form any of those diamonds into ornaments either for herself or daughters, and thereby introduce or countenance the expensive, vain, and useless fashion of wearing jewels in this country; and those immediately connected with the picture may be preserved with the same.” I really hope that his wishes were met in this request so that the jewels remained in the frame and not made into jewelry for his daughter and granddaughters to wear.