It has been a long while but time, I think, to resurrect this occasional series. After all, your will is your last chance to exact your revenge or have a bit of sport.
It was the desire for revenge that motivated Annie Langabeer when she compiled her last will and testament. When she died in Surrey in 1932 at the age of 52 she left the princely sum of half a crown to her brother-in-law, Daniel Jones. Langabeer also told Jones how to use the legacy; to buy a rope with which to hang himself, adding the chilling comment, “though dead, our spirits live”. Families, eh?
In a similar vein, Frank Smith wrote his will in 1939, commanding that all his earthly goods and possessions pass to his daughter upon his death. He died in 1942. There was a proviso, however. She would only inherit if she didn’t continue to live with her immoral husband or permitted him in any way to benefit from her inheritance. If she failed to adhere to the terms of the will, the estate with Frank’s blessing would transfer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Frustratingly, I cannot trace what happened next!
Marriage is all about give and take, they say, and over time you live to put up with your chosen one’s peccadillos. Coventry based boot and shoe manufacturer, Albert Orton, clearly had a problem with his digestive system, causing him to break wind on a regular basis. Better out than in. But Mrs Orton clearly took umbrage at this rather unfortunate habit, calling her hubby a rotten old pig. Orton had the last laugh by leaving her just one farthing in protest at the treatment he had suffered at her hands. I’m not sure this has been repeated.
Of course, marital life is not all bad and despite everything couples continue to adore each other, their love getting stronger with every passing year. One such love bird was Surrey resident, Isaac Cooke, who clearly took great trouble over his will which he wrote in 1935. Cooke left his wife everything but composed his will in verse, seven of them. One of the sections of the will reads, “To Alice Cooke my loving wife,/ for her to keep and use./ Without reserve throughout her life,/ however she may choose”. Wordsworth he was not but a charming way to present your last will and testament nonetheless.
There are many mysteries surrounding our mortal life. For those of us of a theosophical bent, there is the imponderable of whether there is a god and by extension, if you follow a certain religious path, a trinity. I know Jesus was supposed to be poor, coming from lowly stock but I’m not sure that the lure of £26,000 would encourage him to come out of hiding and manifest himself to all and sundry. Still, full marks to an anonymous legator for trying that one!
And, finally, there is the question of the wake. There is the old joke about someone standing a pint of beer on an old skinflint’s coffin because that was the only way they would get a drink on him. Clearly, the fear that there wouldn’t be enough in the pot to fund a good send off was uppermost in Stephen Cuthbert’s mind. When the Wiltshire man wrote his will in 2002, he left strict instructions that his estate paid for the piss up at his funeral. Good for him, I say! This should be mandatory in every will.