All About Estates

The Airing of Grievances

Thanksgiving 2020 is a time for gratitude and togetherness. It’s a time for us to reflect on the craziness of these past 8 months and to appreciate the things that we have.

For others, it’s a time to gather your family around and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year. I may be confusing that last part with Seinfeld’s Festivus episode, but you can see where I’m going with today’s blog

Wills are a Vessel of Truth….

In Ancient Rome, it was believed that Romans only spoke without reserve once in their lives – in their wills. Since wills only become public when a testator passes away, they can be written without fear. At least in theory.

Estate Planning can be a very cathartic process. You are matching your favorite possessions to the loved ones in your life who you think would appreciate them the most. But what about your not-so-loved ones?

The Ancient Romans used their wills to speak their final truths. Modern day Romans can write a profanity-laced poema insulting their son-in-law.

Someone should really research the ways that people have insulted family in their final wills…..

You know that I did. Let’s get petty everyone.

…..and the Truth Hurts

  • William Shakespeare once wrote “And when love speaks, the voice of all the gods makes Heaven drowsy with the harmony.” On the other hand, in his will, Shakespeare also left his wife his “second-best bed”
  • German poet Heinrich Heine left his estate to his wife on the condition that she remarry, so that “there will be at least one man to regret my death”
  • Englishwoman Annie Langabeer left her brother two shillings and a sixpence, so he could “buy a rope” to hang himself
  • Leave it to an American to be a bit less reserved – In 1908 Garvey White of Philadelphia left “fifty cents be paid to my son-in-law to buy for himself a good stout rope with which to hang himself, and thus rid mankind of one of the most infamous scoundrels that ever roamed this broad land or dwelt outside of a penitentiary”
  • Marquise D’Aligre left his wife “her lover” and “the knowledge that I was not the fool she thought me”
  • In 1937, Englishman Frank Smith stated in his will that his estate should go to his daughter, as long as she didn’t keep living with “her immoral husband”
  • In 1920, Charles F. Hoeckel of Denver left Clark Moore “six hundred shares of stock of the Douglas Dome Royalty Company, which he sold to me on the damnedest misrepresentation conceivable, and which he can use as a marker in his Prayer Book”

Philip Herbert was the 5th Earl of Pembroke, but he was also the 1st Earl of savage insults. Just look at these gifts he left in his 1669 will

  • He bequeathed to Lord Sage “nothing” because he knew Sage would “faithfully distribute it unto the poor.”
  • He also gifted Lieutenant-General Cromwell “one of my words the which he must want, seeing that he hath never kept any of his own”.

These testators were probably thinking “I’m dead. What are they going to do, sue me?”

Stay tuned for my post next Thursday where I’ll cover Testamentary Libel


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


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About Peter Meitanis


  1. Terri Langille

    October 8, 2020 - 1:10 pm

    Thanks for the chuckle!

  2. Gurpreet Dhariwal

    October 8, 2020 - 6:21 pm

    I look forward to reading your articles; full of humor

  3. Gali Gelbart

    October 9, 2020 - 3:38 pm

    Creative Will drafting for sure!

  4. Cassidy Stroud

    October 13, 2020 - 5:01 pm

    You made me laugh out loud at my desk. So funny!

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