1. William Shakespeare, 1616
Shakespeare generously gave a whole ten pounds to “the poor of Stratford,” as he referred to them. He also gave his “second-best bed, with the furniture” to his wife and his “broad silver-gilt bowl” to his daughter Judith.
2. Benjamin Franklin, 1790
To his daughter, Sarah Bache, Franklin gave the king of France’s picture, which was set with 408 diamonds. However, this came with a very particular regulation: “that she would not form any of those diamonds into ornaments, either for herself or daughters, and thereby introduce or countenance the expensive, vain, and useless pastime of wearing jewels in this country. And to his grandson William Temple Franklin he gave his “timepiece that stands in [his] library” and his “Chinese gong.”
3. Napoleon Bonaparte, 1821
He clearly wasn’t the most generous man. He requested that his ashes “may repose on the banks of the Seine, in the midst of the French people, whom I have loved so well.” And instead of leaving anything tangible for his son, he left a recommendation, that he never “forget that he was born a French prince, and never to allow himself to become an instrument in the hands of triumvirs who oppress the nations of Europe.”
4. Matthew Arnold, 1888
He left all of his possessions to his wife, Frances.
5. Harry Houdini, 1926
Houdini had very particular specifications for his burial, all concerned with remaining intimately close to his mother. He asked for his body to “be embalmed and buried in the same manner in which [his] beloved mother was buried,” that his “grave be constructed in the same manner as [his] beloved mother’s last resting place was constructed for her burial and vault, and that he be buried “in the grave immediately alongside” his late mother.
6. Calvin Coolidge, 1933
Coolidge gave his entire estate—“both real and person”—to his wife Grace Coolidge. He was thoughtful enough to add that, despite, giving everything to his wife, “Not unmindful of my son John.”
7. Leona Helmsley, 2007
To The Leona Helmsley July 2005 Trust she left the sum of $12 million. And though she left nothing to her grandson Craig Panzierer and her granddaughter Meegan Panzirer, she stated that the reason for this is known to them. She did, however, have strict particulars for her dog, Trouble. “I leave my dog, Trouble, if she survives me, to my brother Alvin Rosenthal, if he survives me, or if he does not survive me, to my grandson David panzirer. I direct that when my dog, Trouble, dies, her remains shall be buried next to my remains in the Helmsley Mausoleum. “
8. Charles Dickens, 1879
He asked of the mourners who attend his funeral, that they “wear no scarf, cloak, black bow, long hatband, or other such revolting absurdity.” He also requested that his funeral, as well as the details of his funeral, not be made public and that his funeral be a modest one. His requests were ignored.
9. George Bernard Shaw, 1950
Shaw had always been an enthusiast of Darwin over any religion, and so it makes sense that he requested his tombstone not “take the form of a cross or any other instrument of torture or symbol of blood sacrifice. During his life, Shaw created a 40-letter phonetic alphabet and in his will he left a large portion of his estate to the promotion of this new alphabet.
10. Alexander McQueen, 2010
When he committed suicide three years ago, the world discovered how much he loved his dogs. He left $70,000 of his fortune to them.
11. Dusty Springfield, 1999
In her will, the most detailed instructions were left for her cat. She instructed that her cat be fed imported baby food, that it be serenaded with her own songs, and that her cat marry his future guardian’s cat.
12. Janis Joplin, 1970
Joplin had a will set in place, but two days before her death she altered it, setting aside $2,500 to pay for an all-night party for 200 guests after she passed. The purpose? “So my friends can get blasted after I’m gone.” As for the remainder of her fortune, it supposedly went to her parents.
13. Franz Kafka, 1924
Kafka was an exceedingly modest man, so much so that he stated in his will—which was, in actuality, a note to his friend Max Brod—that the only books “that can stand are” The Judgment, The Stoker, Metamorphosis, Penal Colony Country Doctor. “I do not mean that i wish them to be…handed down to posterity,” he clarified, “On the contrary, should they disappear altogether that would please me best.” He requested that everything else of his be burned, and “as soon as possible.” Brod did not comply with Kafka’s demands.