Phoenix, AZ on the Wills of history - feather in ink bottle

Phoenix, AZ on the Wills of History

Today’s blog post visits the past with a curious look at the earliest will in history, and a quick jaunt through some strange ideas for bequeathing estates to family members or friends. At our Phelps LaClair offices located in Mesa, Chandler, and Phoenix, AZ, we’ve been helping families create successful estate plans for two generations; plans that stand strong in light of today’s complicated legal systems. We prefer using Living Trusts these days, and specifically, revocable living trusts. But for the moment, we’ll take you on an interesting tour of some strange endowments of history. So come along, and enjoy our muse from Phoenix, AZ on the wills of history!

The Oldest Known Living Will

Egypt is the location of the oldest known living will, scribed on parchment paper and dating back to somewhere around 1797 B.C. A man named Ankh-ren, called the superintendent of works, bequeathed to his brother, Uah, all of his property. Later, his brother Uah bequeathed all of Ankh-ren’s property to his wife Teta. In his will, Uah also named a guardian for his sons. The will was witnessed by two scribes.

Early America

The first child born to the Pilgrims, named Peregrine White, lived into his eighties. His last will and testament was dated July 14, 1704. In his will, his first instruction was to “Humbly commit my Soul to Almighty God that Gave it and my Body to decent Buriall.” He then gave the bulk of his worldly goods to his wife, and to his son and daughters, he gave a few pieces of furniture: a bed, some chairs, and other small furniture pieces.

British Generosity

An anonymous Brit made a rather generous bequest in 1928 to the nation of Britain, with the hopes of helping to pay off the national debt. The amount was £500,000 (in USD, that was about $621,000). The money has been held in trust as a national fund and has grown sizeably. Today, it has increased to £350 million. However, the anonymous British citizen who wrote the will specified that the amount could not be cashed out until it can completely satisfy the entire national debt. Since today’s national debt in Britain stands at a whopping £1.6 trillion, the likelihood of the money being touched is slim.

Marriage is a Stipulation

And then there is the man who passed on his money to his wife Mathilde, but only if she remarried. His name was Heinrich Heine, a German poet who died in 1856. Apparently, he and his wife did not get along at all, because his friends, who knew he was dying, asked him why he insisted on his wife’s remarriage. His response?  “Because then at least one man will regret my death.”

Other Unique Will Bequests:

—Before he died in 1974, Comedian Jack Benny bequeathed to his wife Mary the daily delivery of one red rose from a florist, for as long as she lived. They had been married for 50 years. Mary lived for 9 more years of daily red rose deliveries, as requested by her deceased husband.

—In 2004, Billionaire Leona Helmsley deemed that her four billion dollars should be spent “caring for dogs.” Her Maltese pooch named Trouble initially received twelve million dollars, but it was later cut to two million dollars.

—In 2007, Investment banker Keith Owens gave almost three million dollars to a favorite vacation spot, Sidmouth in Devon, England. He stipulated that they use it to make the area beautiful. Since then, the local civic association has planted thousands of flower bulbs in an attempt to honor Owens’ wishes.

Whatever Your Wishes

That’s our short, amusing exposé from Phoenix, AZ on the Wills of history, for your pleasure. Whatever your personal wishes are for passing on a legacy, we hope you will give them some thought long before you need a last will and testament or a living trust. At Phelps LaClair, serving the Phoenix Valley, we firmly believe in passing on a legacy and protecting your estate from unexpected long-term care needs, from probate expense, and from exorbitant taxation. If you’d like to know more about revocable living trusts or about other trusts that can keep your assets safe and secure while providing for your Golden Years—give us a call, or sign up for one of our free estate planning seminars.


Images used under creative commons license (Commercial Use) (Pixabay) yesxcom

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