Quirky ways to leave a legacy

Posted in: Finance Last updated: 04 Jul 2014

We’d all like to think we’ll leave a legacy after our death – whether it’s people remembering us through our good work and the way we lived our life, or providing something for family so that they’re taken care of after we’re gone. Some people leave their estate to beloved pets or bequeath interesting heirlooms to their families, and others go for something completely off the wall! We’ve looked into the weirdest things people have stipulated in their wills to leave a lasting impression of their time on earth.

Charles Vance Millar

Charles was a Canadian lawyer, who’s now best known for his love of practical jokes, mainly due to the playful bequests he made. He had no dependants or close relatives, so when he died in 1926, he chose to convert the majority of his estate to cash 10 years after his death, and have this made payable to the woman who’d had the most children in that decade. The resulting $750,000 (worth over $450 million today) was mostly split between 4 women who’d all had 9 children each, with $12,500 each going to 2 further women who’d almost – but not quite – made the grade. The decade was known as the “Great Stork Derby”, and a film was made about the events in 2002. How’s that for a lasting legacy!

Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham was a liberal activist in the 18th and 19th century – campaigning for the separation of church and state, individual and economic freedom, and is widely regarded as being the founder of modern utilitarianism. When he died in 1832, he left his estate to the London Hospital, and outlined designs for an “Auto-Icon” – essentially a mummified version of himself – which he wanted his friend to create. This icon ended up sitting in University College London, and has been brought to College Council meetings on occasion – where Jeremy has been listed as “present but not voting”.

George Bernard Shaw

We know George Bernard Shaw best as a proficient playwright, and for his ironic wit. What most people don’t know about him is that he had a lot of interest in phonetics and alphabet reform. He left some money in his will to be used to develop a new, more efficient alphabet, and after some disputes, a worldwide competition was held to do this with his funds. This was won by Ronald Kingsley Read, who came up with the 40 letter alphabet. Unfortunately, the competition was so costly that the trust could only afford to publish one book using the Shavian alphabet and – as you can tell from reading this article – it never took off.

Fredric Baur

He’s hardly a household name, but Fredric Baur was a successful food-storage technician. During his lifetime, he developed frying oils and freeze-dried ice cream among other things. However, the invention he was clearly most proud of was the ubiquitous Pringles Can. Baur was so pleased with his contribution to canned snacks, that when he passed away in 2008, he asked to be cremated and for some of his ashes to be stored in a Pringles tube!

Robert Louis Stevenson

The “Treasure Island” author obviously had a compassionate side. When a family friend mentioned his daughter’s birthday was Christmas Day and she didn’t like sharing her day with the general family celebration, he took this on board and bequeathed his own birthday – November 13th – to her. The legal document instructed Annie to “sport fine raiment, eat rich meats, and receive gifts, compliments and copies of verse” – sounds like a great party.

We’ve talked before about how over-50s life cover can insure your family to make sure they’re looked after financially after you’re gone – but as you can see from the above, once that part of your legacy is secure, there are lots of other ways to make sure people remember you, and have a bit of fun at the same time.

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Hub content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions. OneFamily do not provide advice so it may be worth speaking to an independent financial advisor about your own circumstances.