Testamentary Freedom: Leaving your Estate to Someone You Have Never Met

Written on February 12, 2013 – 8:15 am | by Laura West

Recent news articles have highlighted the interesting case of a man in Illinois, who having never married and having no children or close family members, left his estate to two people he had never met – two movie and television actors who had prominence in the 70s and 80s.

From the facts that can be gleaned from these articles, it appears that the testator, 71 year old Ray Fulk, a reclusive man who lived in a farmhouse without running water, was a fan of the two actors, and had exchanged letters with them, but had never met them.  The first actor, Kevin Brophy, is best known from the 1970’s television show entitled Lucan, and the second actor, Peter Barton, is best known for his work on the soap opera “The Young and the Restless” from 1987 to 1993. 

After making a bequest to the Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago, Mr. Fulk left his entire estate, worth over a million dollars, to Mr. Brophy and Mr. Barton. 

These circumstances, while unusual, highlight some interesting issues pertaining to testamentary freedom and testamentary capacity that are worth considering.  First, provided that a testator has satisfied any legal obligations he may have to dependants or others, he has a high degree of testamentary freedom to dispose of his assets as he likes. Second, if a testator satisfies the requirements of the legal test for testamentary capacity, the peculiarity or eccentricity of his Will should not be relevant.


Laura West

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