Historical Wills and Famous Final Words

 By: Melissa Gordon
Leaving items behind for your loved ones means the chance to leave a final gift that will provide them with something to remember you by. It also means an opportunity to see to it that, if you have made a large amount of money and saved it, your family will never need to know financial hardship should times get tougher. Making a will allows you to have your final word, and because it is legally binding it is one list of wishes that will come true. This is an opportunity to get things right and leave a legacy for which you will be remembered. So it is as good a time as any to be completely sure about what you say.

Take Charles Millar, the Toronto lawyer who died without procreating, and with no close relatives in his circle. With a lot of money to give away, Millar hit upon a plan – he left his entire fortune to “the Mother who has given birth to the greatest number of children” in the city. Dying in 1927, Millar provoked a race to procreate, which ended up being called “the Stork Derby” by newspapers. At the end of the race, it was found that there were four winners – each with nine children, they divided $568,000 among themselves despite several legal challenges to the will on the grounds that it promoted “immorality”.

Many people will see their will as the chance to say all of the things that they just could not bring themselves to say while they were alive. Their biggest regrets, their profound encouragement to family members who found emotional discussions a little bit embarrassing in everyday life, and any secrets that they promised to take to the grave with them. Your last words to be spoken on earth, albeit by the executor of your estate, it is a chance to be as flowery as you never dared be while alive. This knowledge was lost on Karl Tausch, a Czech-German businessman who decided that he would get to the point. His will, in full, read “Vse zene” – or “all to wife”. This is recorded as the shortest will ever written.

Abraham Lincoln is remembered by many as America’s greatest ever president, and by others not so fondly. Among the others might be members of his extended family, as Lincoln was the only US President to die intestate. As one of the presidents who was assassinated he can maybe be excused this oversight, and his overall worth was awarded to his wife and two sons – a sum of over $110,000. Notably, in a move that would be looked upon with surprise in these days when future earnings are taken into account in many jobs, the US Congress stopped Lincoln’s salary from the day after his death – something that would never come to pass today.

And Karl Marx, the founder of Communism, who in life opposed the accumulation of vast personal fortunes? He was true to his word in death as in life, leaving a little over $400.
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