Your Will, your way

24 February 2017

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a person’s last Will and Testament in the following terms:

“A legal document containing instructions as to what should be done with one’s money and property after one’s death.”

It’s a black and white definition which conjures up a level of solemn seriousness.  After all we are talking about “documents” “death” “the law” and “one’s assets.”

But what if I start to add some more colourful words to this drab description of Will. Like “choices,” “love,” “devotion,” “self expression,” “legacy” and “you”.

For in these terms your Will becomes a magical scroll which allows those things which make you “you,” to live on after your death.

It’s completely your choice what you include in your Will. You may want to express your devotion to a loved one, a pet, or a cause close to your heart. Or you may want to include weird and wonderful burial instructions or messages to loved ones from beyond the grave.

The following household names are examples of those who have used their Will to great effect. In one case they literally illustrate that the sky’s the limit when it comes to what you can request in your Will.

Messages beyond the grave

Magician Harry Houdini loved his wife’s company so much that he famously instructed her to hold a séance every year.

In his Will was a 10 digit code so she would know it was his spirit. Faithful to her husband’s memory, his wife Bess held a séance every Halloween but sadly never had much success in rekindling conversation with her husband.

Weird and wonderful Wills

Other weird yet wonderful requests have involved instructions for final resting places. The creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, asked for his ashes be scattered in space. Six years after his death in 1991 his dreams were realised and his remains went into orbit aboard the first private space burial on The Founders Flight.

As well as messages beyond the grave, the most common use of a Will is the distribution of money and prized possessions. Even this practise can speak volumes about what means the most to you.

There are numerous examples of devoted pet lovers who express their eternal love for their animals by leaving them vast sums of money. Take fashion designer Alexander McQueen who left $75,000 to his dogs.

Leaving behind a better world

By far the most wonderful of our Weird and Wonderful Wills list is that of Body Shop founder Anita Roddick. Upon her death she chose to donate her £51 million fortune not to friends or relatives but to a range of charities and causes she cared about during her lifetime.

This choice continues to make the world a better place years after her death and touches the lives of numerous people.

So why not have some fun when you choose what to include in your Will. Imagine your legacy being a unique funeral request, message to a loved one or a gift to a charity which will do good for years to come.

Jenny Peake, individual giving manager at Douglas Macmillan Hospice

Find out more about making a Will.