This week, Heather Ilott hit the press when she was awarded an inheritance of £164,000 as the courts overturned the ‘capricious’ will of her mother, who had originally left £486,000 to animal charities.
There is an intriguing quality about wills and inheritances that makes them a very good source of drama, not only for newspapers but also novels and films. Something about the secrecy involved and the ironic triumph of the wishes of the dead over the living, makes them irresistibly newsworthy.
Here are some entertaining stories we have found from days gone by:
The will of William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is available to read here: Shakespeare’s Will. He famously dished out money and goods to his children and the players at The Globe theatre, leaving his wife with his ‘second best bed.’ His actions have been seen to express the Bard’s unhappiness in his marriage.
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), famous author and poet, apparently left his own birthday to a dear friend who had the misfortune of being born on Christmas Day. He willed that Annie Ide should receive all the “rights and privileges on the thirteenth day of November, formerly [my] birthday, now, hereby, and henceforth, the birthday of the said Annie H. Ide, to have, hold, exercise, and enjoy the same in the customary manner, by the sporting of fine raiment, eating of rich meats, and receipt of gifts, compliments, and copies of verse, according to the manner of our ancestors.”
Mr Henry Budd, (1839-1862) a Gentleman of Russell Square, London, stipulated in his will that if either of his sons, Edward or William, ever sported a moustache, then their inheritances would be voided and their share would revert to the other brother. Edward was due to receive Pepper Park, Berkshire and William, Twickenham Park, Middlesex, so presumably the sons were highly motivated to stay clean-shaven!
In the will of Kenneth Gibson, born 1923 in Lincolnshire, he left his daughter, “items normally contained in [my] suitcases and my large jigsaw puzzle TOGETHER WITH the price of half a pound of pork sausages that she claimed in my presence that her late mother Ann Cox had not paid her for.”
If you interested in seeing wills or probate records of your ancestors, you can search for them here: https://www.gov.uk/search-will-probate on the GovUK website. They cost £10 each and can take up to 10 days to receive. The database covers 1858 to the present day and includes many famous people’s last wishes, including Winston Churchill, Alan Turing and AA Milne.