It is almost Halloween and what better time to look at a story that started on October 31st way back in 1926?
Most people would consider discussions around wills and estate planning as rather dull. Many people try to avoid the topic for as long as possible (don’t be that person). It isn’t usually the easiest of discussions to bring up.
That said, there have been a few stories of some eccentric folks who decided that estate planning and wills did not need to be such a dreary topic.
In fact, I would suggest that the story of The Great Stork Derby is downright hilarious, and you might even want to bring it up at the next social gathering you attend. It is a hilarious example of an Eccentric estate settlement.
For those of you who find themselves in the “Never want to talk about estate planning” camp, perhaps this story can serve as a gentle icebreaker to begin your own discussion.
The story centers around the will and estate of Charles Vance Millar of Toronto. He passed away October 31st, 1926. Charles was a prominent Toronto lawyer and financier and at the time of his death, his estate was valued around $1M. Today his estate would have been worth around $14M.
Hi didn’t have a spouse or any apparent heirs, and as we will learn, Charles made some bizarre bequests.
Charles’ sense of humour
In estate planning we do see many people in similar circumstances pass their assets to charity or a close friend, but not Charles!
Charles had a sense of humour, and he chose to have that sense of humour speak from his grave through his will. That is the purpose of your will after all and it does not need to be boring or tedious.
Pews and Pints! Charles gifted his shares in a Catholic-owned beer company to a group of Protestant ministers.
He also gifted his property in Jamaica to three fellow lawyers, which sounds lovely on the surface. The comedic catch is that the three lawyers despised each other and in order to inherit their shares of the property, they all had to live in the property together. If any one of them sold, the proceeds would be distributed as a charitable contribution to the City of Kingston Jamaica.
Those were not the only “fun” inclusions in Charles’ will and he saved the best for last…
The Original Baby Boom?
Charles’ most controversial clause was that the remainder of his fortune was to be given to the woman in Toronto who gave birth to the most children in a ten-year period.
Despite challenges from relatives and Ontario’s own Attorney General at time, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the will, which is a wonderful comfort for those of you with your wills in place, or plan to get one. The settlement became knows as The Great Stork Derby.
It of course made headlines around the world. Ultimately four women “won” and shared the prize. They each received the equivalent of $2 million for having nine children in ten years.
The story of Charles’ will and the baby craze that followed was even made into a movie in 2002.
This story shows how you can get very creative with your estate and how you might like to pass along your assets. There certainly is nothing stopping anyone from adding silly or unique clauses to their wills in Canada.
There is a caveat however: your wishes cannot be illegal, and they have to be possible, so you can’t request that your cottage be moved to Mars before your nephew can inherit it.
While you can add these clauses, it is more common to leave a gift to charity, friends, or other family members if you don’t have children or a spouse. In fact, my habitual readers (thank you) might remember that I have covered gifting to charity in this space before. It is a wonderful way to leave a positive legacy.
You don’t even have to be wealthy like our friend and jokester Charles was. You can create a substantial estate gift with just a few dollars a month through a life insurance policy that names your favourite charity as beneficiary. To learn more about this option, feel free to REACH OUT TO ME HERE.
As always, it is also important to keep your executor in the loop with your estate directory, which you can build on your own, or have it made for you.
Regardless of what you would like to do with your own estate, the important first step is making a will and a great place to start is with a will from Willful, and you can GET 15% OFF YOUR WILL HERE, and you can do it from the comfort of your couch.
While Willful might not be able to help with a complex will like the one that Charles built, they can certainly help you leave your specific gifts and bequests to charities and loved one.
Don’t neglect to plan your estate and get a will and estate directory. Your family will thank you.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you with questions or comments.
THIS ARTICLE IS PROVIDED AS A GENERAL SOURCE OF INFORMATION ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED TO BE PERSONAL INVESTMENT OR LEGAL ADVICE. READERS SHOULD CONSULT WITH THEIR FINANCIAL OR LEGAL ADVISOR TO ENSURE IT IS SUITABLE FOR THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES.