~By Paula Murphy~
People often ask me to recall humorous tales from the legal world, so I thought that today I would try to uplift our readers, rather than send you to sleep with my usual articles.
Obviously, I have to be careful what I divulge as I am bound by rules of confidentiality and I would be distraught if a client, past or present, thought that I would reveal their personal business within these posts. Therefore, for my peace of mind, my sanity and conscience I will slightly alter some of the facts to ensure that I steer well clear from breaking any confidences and preserve confidentiality.
Making A Will:
On the subject of Will making, a lot of people have no idea what they are supposed to put in their Wills. I used to advise such clients that they can put into it as much as they want because at the end of the day it is their “Will”, their last Will and Testament, their Wish.
This has lead to a whole raft weird and wonderful bequests and requests, most of which centre around the funeral service or burial. One lady wanted her ashes scattered off the back of her Harley Davidson motorbike, as it sped along the Gower coastline. Visualising this, health and safety concerns kicked in, as well the legalities of performing the exercise on a highway. As I questioned the mechanics of the exercise and wondered how her husband would steer the bike, as well as open and scatter the ashes, as he coasted along one-handed, with an urn balancing between his legs, she explained that he would have a pillion passenger onboard to do the necessaries. I kindly pointed out to her that what she was requesting may not be strictly legal and ever so slightly dangerous, but she was adamant. I just hope to this day that I am not driving behind her husband one summer’s day on the way to the beach.
Another client was determined to include the following bequest “To my daughter, I leave £1.00 – for the kindness and love she has never shown me”. Or how about this one “I wish peace and affluence to all my friends and a piece of effluence to all my enemies”.
Some stars of the past have made some rather peculiar bequests or requests in their Wills. Houdini is renowned for his Will which provided that his wife hold an annual séance so that he could reveal himself to her! Reveal, as in, surprise her with his re-appearance, I hope!
Shakespeare was very generous and obviously thought a lot of his wife when he left her “his second best bed”. So glad I wasn’t his wife! And Napoleon Bonaparte requested that his head be shaved and his hair divided amongst his friends. Rather glad I wasn’t one of his friends either.
Many a folk do not want to benefit their once beloved husband or wife at all, but it usually transpires that they have been so hurt and let down by their spouse that they do not want them benefiting after their days, at all. Usually, the reason stems from some indiscretion in the past, some affair that has tainted their marriage to such a degree that they cannot possibly stand the thought of their husband or wife benefiting from their demise. Ex-husbands and wives are also included in peoples Will, but not that often, as usually their finances are resolved at the time of their divorce. A favourite of mine is “To my first wife, Sue, whom I always promised to mention in my Will, “hello Sue!”.
Everyone loves a Pringle and Fred Baur was the creative mind behind the design of the Pringles container. After passing away in 2008, his Will directed that his family were to bury part of him in a Pringles can. And so they did; his family filled up a can with his ashes and buried the can with the rest of his remains.
And what about American comedian Jack Benny, who set aside enough money in his Will to arrange for the delivery of a single long stemmed rose to his wife every single day for the rest of her life. She outlived him for a period of 9 years with a daily reminder of her husband’s love. Apparently, she didn’t like her husband very much because of his philandering ways, but obviously he thought a lot of her.
On a personal note, I have been left money in a friends Will so that I can look after her cats when she has brushed off her mortal coil, so to speak. However, I dare not tell her about Dusty Springfield, known for such hits as “I will follow him”. She made her cat a priority in her last Will and Testament. Instructions stated that the cat was to be fed imported baby food and serenaded with Springfield’s songs. On top of that, the singer arranged for the cat to marry his new guardian’s pet cat! On a final note, my same friend has left me in her Will, her entire collection of cookery books! That’s either a compliment or an insult. As long as she’s not expecting me to cook for the cats, I’ll take it as the former.
The thought of going to Court strikes fear into most people. As lawyers, we are not exempt from this emotion, especially when clients of ours take to the witness stand in order to give evidence. I was once involved in a High Court case in Cardiff where my client was making a claim for part of her late step-mother’s estate. When my poor client was being cross-examined by the other party’s barrister, she got quite upset and viewed his questions as bullying. She became quite hysterical in the witness box and begged the Judge “stop him from being nasty to me, Sir”. When the Judge tried to explain that the barrister was merely doing his job she became quite distraught yelling to me across the Court room “Paula, Paula help me. Save me from this man”. “Paula please I’m begging you!”. “Paula knows the answers to these questions, not me, ask her. I’m really thick I am. I haven’t got a clue what’s going on. Paula told me to do all this”.
I must have gone fifty shades of puce because the very sympathetic Judge suggested a short adjournment and a lot of fresh air. Never have I wanted the ground to open up to swallow me up, so much!