What are The Most Outrageous Last Will and Testament Requests by Famous People?
6 min read

What are The Most Outrageous Last Will and Testament Requests by Famous People?

What are the craziest Will requests? Have celebrities made outrageous Will requests? This article walks you through some of the most outrageous Will requests by famous people. Keep reading to learn more!

Share this article:

When it comes to making crazy requests in wills, celebrities are just like us. Here are the most outrageous last will and testament requests by famous people.

Harry Houdini

Magician and escape artist Harry Houdini was known for his death-defying stunts. He excelled at escaping from jail cells and handcuffs and couldn’t resist pushing himself to the limits. In 1907 Houdini jumped from a bridge into a river while wearing handcuffs. He survived. In 1912 he pioneered the Chinese Water Torture Cell escape, which found him handcuffed and shackled and then lowered into a tall glass box that was filled with water. Minutes later Houdini would emerge, alive and unshackled. 

After the First World War, the world went through a spiritualist craze. Psychics and mediums became celebrities, promising bereaved people that they could contact their loved ones on “the other side.” Houdini thought these people were full of sh^t. He traveled the country giving lectures exposing tricks used by mediums. He even tried to get Congress to pass a bill outlawing fortune telling. So, in his will, Houdini offered a reward to anybody who could successfully contact him after his death. Although many people attempted to contact Houdini during seances, no one has ever done it and the prize remains uncollected.

Napoleon Bonaparte 

In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to the island of St. Helena off the coast of Africa. The little emperor had once ruled an empire that spanned Europe, ruling nearly half a million square miles and a population of 44 million people. After his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon spent the last five years of his life on the island, writing his memoirs and nursing his many battlefield injuries. Napoleon probably died from a stomach ulcer, but his last will and testament threw doubt on these claims.

Napoleon’s handwritten, five-page will heaped opprobrium on the British and named a bunch of people as traitors to the French Empire. He accused the British Empire of killing him by forcing him into exile, but his statements led some to believe the British poisoned him with arsenic. The most eccentric part of Napoleon’s will were his instructions to give his surviving friends and family mementos of his hair and clothes. The will says:

“Marchand shall preserve my hair, and cause a bracelet to be made of it, with a little gold clasp, to be sent to the Empress Maria Louisa, to my mother, and to each of my brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, the Cardinal; and one of larger size for my son.”

Researchers tracked down this hair later on to test the theory that Napoleon was poisoned by arsenic. They discovered that Napoleon’s hair did contain unusually high levels of arsenic. 

Hair wasn’t the only piece of the little corporal that survived his death. Napoleon’s “member” was amputated and passed through many private collectors and was even displayed in New York City. It remains in private custody to this day.

Janis Joplin

Rock singer Janis Joplin was known as a party animal during her lifetime and that continued after her death. Just two days before she died, she changed her will to instruct her Executor to throw a big bash:

“If my Executor shall so elect, he shall be authorized, at the expense of my estate, but not to exceed Two Thousand Five Hundred ($2,500.00) Dollars, to cause a gathering of my friends and acquaintances at a suitable location as a final gesture of appreciation and farewell to such friends and acquaintance.”

Joplin was on the cusp of superstardom when she died of a drug overdose at age 27 in 1970. Her last two recordings were “Mercedes Benz” and a rendition of “Happy Trails” which she made for John Lennon’s birthday. He received the tape in the mail just days after her death. Joplin’s executor followed her instructions for a raucous wake. Two hundred of her closest friends and fans gathered at her favorite San Francisco bar, where they were treated to free booze and hash brownies from the Grateful Dead.

Jack Benny

Comedian Jack Benny was one of the 20th century's biggest stars. He started as a violinist on the vaudeville circuit and wound up having a big influence on radio, film and television. He had a radio show for 20 years and a TV show for 15. His influence can still be felt today in half-hour sitcoms and the late night talk show format. When Benny died at age 80, he left his estate to his wife, daughter, and sister. He owned a Stradivarius violin, which was worth between $50,000 and $100,000 at the time. He donated the violin to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

Benny’s estate plan is straightforward except for one thing. He left instructions in his will that a single long-stemmed red rose be delivered to his wife every day for the rest of her life. His wife Mary Livingstone lived for nine years after her husband’s death. This means Mary got 3,200 red roses as a result of Jack’s last will and testament.  

Leona Helmsley

Leona Helmsley was a real estate investor, developer, and hotelier who was infamous for her tyrannical attitude toward “the little people.” Helmsley’s net worth was at one point $4 billion dollars - but she became known for refusing to pay contractors and stiffing the federal government. The press nicknamed Helmsley as “the Queen of Mean.” Eventually, her tax malfeasance caught up with her and she was convicted of tax fraud. Helmsley had once quipped that “only the little people pay taxes.” She was sentenced to four years in prison and fined over $7 million.

Helmsley's will sparked controversy because it left $12 million to her dog, Trouble, a Maltese while disinheriting her human grandchildren. Many people criticized Helmsley for being mean to her relatives. After a court fight, the bequest was reduced to $2 million by a judge, who deemed the original amount excessive. Hopefully, Trouble could get by on a measly $2 million.

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dalí is considered one of the most creative artists of all time. Dali is known for painting highly technical yet very fanciful paintings. He painted and sculpted surrealist landscapes with mind-bending imagery such as melting clocks. At the end of his life, the Spanish artist struggled with depression and refused food in an effort to put himself in a state of suspended animation. He was burned in a suspicious fire. Historians suspect that Dali’s guardians took advantage of Dali’s condition to force him to sign blank canvases and blank lithographic paper which were later sold as fake artworks. 

Dali died of heart failure in 1989. In his will, he requested that his body be embalmed and put on display in a museum. His wishes were partially granted and his body was displayed at the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Catalonia before being interred crypt beneath the museum. The preservation of Dali’s remains wound up being important in a paternity suit filed by a fortune teller who claimed she was his illegitimate daughter. Dali died without heirs, so if the woman was successful, she would have inherited a windfall. Dali’s body was exhumed in 2017 for a paternity test. Dali was not the father of the fortune teller. But the embalming worked - his famous curly mustache was still intact, according to the embalmer who helped with the exhumation.

Scroll Down
Share this article:
Let’s begin! First, what’s your name?

Your name that’s stated on your driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport.