7 Famous People With Controversial Wills

Everyone needs a will. This document, which becomes active upon your death, executes your final mortal wishes. It might be a little morbid, but it’s a fact of adult life you’ll have to face. Are you confused as to how to write your will? Why not go for extreme shock value? Follow the example of these seven famous people with famously controversial wills.

  1. Gene Rodenderry

    Leave it to the creator of Star Trek to live long, prosper, and to have his ashes boldly go where most haven’t gone before. In his will, Rodenderry asked that his mortal remains be cremated and scattered into space. And they were. His wife commissioned the memorial spaceflight company Celestis, Inc. to carry out his wishes in 1997. Just months after her 2008 death, the remainder of his ashes — along with wife Majel’s — were introduced to infinity, and beyond.

  2. Jeremy Bentham

    The philosophical father of utilitarianism willed that his body be placed in a wooden and glass cabinet, with his remains clothed in a black suit, sitting in his favorite chair. And that’s exactly what happened. The eccentric thinker’s body is preserved with a wax head, called his “Auto-Icon,” at University College London. They take it out for Council meetings, where Bentham is listed as “present but not voting.” Super awkward.

  3. Harry Houdini

    The legendary illusionist believed in paranormal activity, and a condition of his will included a secret code and a yearly séance for communing with his wife from beyond the grave. (She did it for a decade; Houdini never showed.) And he left the modern day equivalent of $40,000 to the Society of American Magicians, which — if you’re wondering — is a real thing.

  4. Alexander McQueen

    The tragic suicide of the visionary designer Alexander McQueen left many with questions, but once his will was made public, one thing was made perfectly clear: McQueen loved his dogs. Bequeathing 50,000 pounds for the care of his dogs, the enigmatic designer also left hefty sums to charity.

  5. Marie Curie

    The Nobel Prize-winning physicist had little in the way of value upon her death — save for a priceless gram of radium, an invaluable gift given to her from the female citizenry of America. She left the gram to the University of Paris, “on the condition that my daughter, Irene Curie, shall have entire liberty to use this gram [. . .] according to the conditions under which her scientific researches shall be pursued.”

  6. Janis Joplin

    Prove that you love me, and buy the next round…Amending her will just two days before her death, the beloved blueswoman from Port Arthur, Texas, set aside several thousand dollars for a posthumous party for her 200 closest friends. Held at her favorite bar in San Anselmo, Calif., the eternally cool Janis wanted her friends to “get blasted after I’m gone.”

  7. George Bernard Shaw

    The philosopher developed the Shavian Alphabet, one consisting of 40 letters and a different linguistic methodology. After devoting a substantial portion of his estate to promote his vision, a magistrate ruled that it was an impossible and futile goal, and Shaw’s remaining estate funds were donated to the British Museum. Only one of Shaw’s works, Androcles and the Lion was ever translated into Shavian and sold.