More than a few people have left wills which intentionally disinherit heirs. But few are known to have literally destroyed their own assets – thereby leaving nothing to be inherited or even fought over in court. But one Austrian grandmother was brave enough (or mad enough) to do just that. Austrian state prosecutor recently confirmed that an 85 year old woman cut up nearly $1 million euros, apparently in an attempt to spite her heirs.
The shredded cash, along with savings account books, were found in her bed after she died in a retirement home. While state prosecutors said there was nothing that could be done to help the effectively disinherited heirs, Austria’s central bank came to their rescue.
Despite the woman’s obvious wishes to leave nothing to her family, she did not foresee that the bank would cover the lost cash. Deputy head of the bank told reporters that:
“If the heirs can only find shreds of money and if the origin of the money is assured, then of course it can all be replaced.”
Perhaps it is the best of both worlds – she passed away thinking she’d gotten her way, and her family still got a substantial sum of money.
One would hope that someone who amassed such a large amount of money would think of creating a trust for a charitable cause. Nevertheless, wealthy people throughout history have repeatedly bequeathed their assets in ways which most of us may never understand.
For example, Hotel heiress Leona Helmsley left the bulk of her estate to her dog, Trouble, with another huge chunk going toward upkeep costs of her mausoleum. Prior to her death in 2007, Leona set up a Pet Trust for her white maltese and funded the trust with $12 million. A judge later cut the trust down to $2 million, with which the maltese was provided a lavish life in the Helmsley mansion in Florida (I know, you were worried). The beloved pet was buried in Ms. Helmsley’s 12,000 square foot mausoleum, which was able to keep its $3 million for annual steam cleaning and washing.
While we could explore a host of other stories, I will leave you with a few famous quotes from unusual wills, and one lesson learned: If you live in the SF East Bay, and you don’t want your relatives to get your money when you die, resist cutting it up and set up a Charitable Remainder Trust instead.
Famous Quotes from Last Wills and Testaments:
“To my son, I leave the pleasure of earning a living, which he had not done in 35 years.”
“To my valet I leave the clothes he has been stealing from me regularly for the past 10 years. Also my fur coat that he wore last winter when I was in Palm Beach.”
“To my chauffeur, I leave my cars. He almost ruined them and I want him to have the satisfaction of finishing the job.”
As a side note, if you do choose to include something spiteful in your will, set up a trust in order to avoid probate. If your assets have to go through probate, your will along with any court proceedings become public knowledge.