Ten Things You Don’t Know About Estate Planning
The first will was found in an ancient tomb in Egypt. Is there a final will in your safety deposit box? You’ll want to get one after reading these little-known facts about last will & testament, power of attorney, & living will documents.
Historically, a “will” was used to distribute of real estate after one’s death and a “testament” was used to dispose of personal property. Today those instructions are combined into a single document, called a “last will and testament.”
- In 1829, British Scientist James Smithson created the Smithsonian Institution when he made a bequest in his last will and testament, instructing: “I then bequeath the whole of my property… to the United
States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men.” Curiously, Smithson had never visited the United States.
- The record for the longest will ever probated is held by an English woman, Frederica Evelyn Stilwell Cook. Her estate was valued at about $100,000, and her last will and testament ran 1,066 pages and 95,940 words.
- In contrast, the shortest known wills are each three words long. Indian Bimla Rishi’s will read “all to son” and German Karl Tausch’s read
“all to wife.”
- A recent study estimates that 11 percent of Britons have included their internet passwords in their last will and testament.
- In Alberta, Canada, your last will and testament is automatically invalidated when you get married, but it remains valid when you get divorced.
- Famous Americans who died without a valid will include Sonny Bono, Kurt Cobain,John Denver, Chris Farley, Howard Hughes and Martin Luther King Jr.
- In his last will and testament, the late actor and comedian Del Closerequested that his skull go to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre so he could “play” Yorick in Hamlet after his death. The executor of Close’s estate couldn’t find anyone willing to remove his head from the body, so he was eventually cremated intact. His executorthen gave the Goodman another skull (purchased from a local science supply store), which has been used in several plays.
- The “will of Uah” is the oldest-known will in existence. It
was found in a tomb in Egypt and dates to 2548 BC. In it, Uah left all of his property to his wife Teta.
- Historians have also found a power of attorney that dates to 561 BC Mesopotamia. In it, a man authorizes his brother to conduct business on his behalf.
- Although some estate-planning tools have been used for thousands of years,
others are much younger. In September 1976, California became the first state to legalize the use of the living will, which gives people control over their end-of-live medical treatment.
Whether you’re rich or poor, single or married, old or young, it’s never too soon to think about estate-planning issues. Every American adult should, at minimum, have a last will and testament, power of attorney and living will (including healthcare power of attorney).
If we left anything out, or you know of something interesting, share it with us in the comments below this post. Are your estate plans in order? Contact a lawyer to make sure you don’t wind up like Sonny Bono and learn more about wills on Lawyers.com.