5 Unorthodox Will Beneficiaries

Will beneficiaries often include a spouse, children or other near relatives. But it does not have to be that way. A will is a legal document stating how an individual wishes to have his/her assets disbursed upon death. The person receiving assets is called a beneficiary. Will beneficiaries have ranged from animals to institutions and other unorthodox recipients. The following are five examples.


Hotel magnate Leona Helmsley did not name two of her living grandchildren as will beneficiaries. In effect she left them nothing. However, her Maltese dog, named Trouble, inherited $12 million of her fortune. A judge later reduced that amount.

Helsmely’s bequest pales in comparison to Carlotta Liebenstein, a German countess, who left $80 million to her dog, Gunther.

Beneficiaries with Strings Attached

Some unorthodox will beneficiaries are those bequeathed money from an estate, with certain stipulations. As mentioned above, Leona Helmsley left two grandchildren out of her will entirely. But she had four grandchildren. The other two received $10 million each on the stipulation that they regularly visit their father’s grave, and sign in at a register to prove it.

In 1862, Englishman Henry Budd left his sons a then-enormous sum of about $400,000, provided that neither of them ever grew a mustache.

Unknown Beneficiaries

Publishing giant William Randolph Hearst was concerned that after his death people would come forward claiming to be his illegitimate children and stake claim to part of his estate. He headed off that possibility by naming as will beneficiaries anyone who could conclusively prove that they were an out-of-wedlock child of his. If they could, they got $1.

Charles Millar, a Canadian attorney, left his fortune of over a half a million dollars to the Toronto woman who had the most children in the decade following his death in 1928. Four women tied for the money with 10 children each.

Unsuspecting Beneficiaries

A bachelor in Portugal, Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara, had a small fortune and no heirs. His will beneficiaries were named as 70 people to be chosen at random out of the Lisbon phone book.

Actor Charles Bronson received $300,000 as the unorthodox and unsuspecting beneficiary of a Kentucky woman who died in 1997 and was a fan of Bronson’s. The will, which was contested and upheld, also stipulated that nothing would go to the woman’s mother. Reportedly, Bronson gave the money to charity.


Rock icon Janis Joplin’s estate mostly went to her parents, however her friends were unorthodox will beneficiaries as well. Joplin set aside $2,500 for a party for her friends to celebrate her life after her death. She changed her will just two days before she died to include the new beneficiaries.

A Finnish man named left the dividends from a few hundred shares of a boot-making company to friends at a nursing home. The company eventually become telecommunications giant Nokia and the bequeathment to the nursing home residents became worth millions of dollars.

blog comments powered by Disqus