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The lighter side of wills

25 September 2018


Knowing you have an up-to-date will in place is something that gives you peace of mind about your finances and property. But what about the other stuff?

If today was your last day, what would happen to the things you care about? And do the people closest to you know your wishes for your send-off?

Fred Baur was a chemist from Ohio who invented the iconic design of the Pringles can and crisps. Pringles went on to become one of Procter & Gamble’s highest earners and today has annual sales of over $1 billion. In 2008, in accordance with his wishes, Fred’s ashes were buried in a Pringles can.

Gene Roddenberry was the creator of Star Trek. His will included instructions to have his ashes scattered via a space satellite orbiting Earth. The act was carried out in 1997.

And what about the pets? Dusty Springfield, the British singer known for such hits as I Will Follow Him, made her cat a priority in her last will and testament. The instructions stated that the cat was to be fed imported baby food and serenaded with Springfield's songs. Additionally, the singer also arranged for the cat to marry his new guardian's pet cat.

When it comes to writing a will, it’s up to you what you put in it. Whether you leave the family jewels to the pet goldfish or insist on being buried with the wifi password, it’s your call – although there are some legal limitations and someone realistically needs to be able to carry out these wishes.

“Very often the more unusual requests regarding funeral wishes relate to the disposing of people’s ashes. For instance, one gentleman asked that his ashes be scattered off the side of a World War Two German navy boat,” says Public Trust’s General Counsel, Henry Stokes.

“People often give a lot of thought to gifting things that might seem usual at first, such as maybe gifting one’s old false teeth to a museum. But, actually, it’s nice that people think about how what they have might be helpful or educational to others in some way. People want to be useful, even in death.

“Although there is a lighter side to wills, it’s also really important to give the sum total of your life – the relationships you’ve developed and the things you’ve accumulated – the consideration they deserve.”

Public Trust prepares wills and enduring powers of attorney that are customisable and easy to renew, with packages starting at $289 including GST.

Reference points for key messages:

- 55% of adult New Zealanders don’t have wills
- Modern family dynamics (new partnerships, stepchildren, etc.) can mean that wills become out-of-date, allocation of assets can be more complicated and beneficiaries can be vulnerable to claims. The way to avoid this is a rock-solid, up-to-date will.
- If a will is up to date and everything is taken care of, families can grieve properly
- The cost of not having a will can easily be many times the cost of making one.

Over the years, unusual will requests have made headlines. Here are a few examples:

Gene Roddenberry
The creator of Star Trek had a will that included instructions to have his ashes scattered via a space satellite orbiting earth. The act was carried out in 1997.

Dusty Springfield
The British singer, known for such hits as I Will Follow Him made her cat a priority in her last will and testament. Instructions stated that the cat was to be fed imported baby food and serenaded with Springfield's songs. Additionally, the singer also arranged for the cat to marry his new guardian's pet cat.

Mark Gruenwald
The Executive Editor of Captain America and Iron Man, who was also involved in other Marvel Comics, stated that he wished for his ashes to be mixed with the ink used to print the comic books. They were.

Napoleon Bonaparte
In his last will and testament, the famous French military genius requested that, upon his death, his head was to be shaved and his hair distributed to his family and friends.

Luis Carlos da Camara
When the Portuguese aristocrat wrote up his will, he left his considerable fortune to 70 strangers randomly chosen out of a Lisbon phone directory.

Fredric Baur
This chemist from Ohio invented the iconic design of the Pringles can and crisps. Pringles went on to become of Procter & Gamble’s highest earners and today has annual sales of over $1 billion. In 2008, in accordance with his wishes, Fredric’s ashes were buried in a Pringles can.

- Ends -

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