Famous Last Wills and Testaments of Writers and Poets Part 2

Some famous and bizarre last wills and testaments of writers including Shaw, Hemingway, and Drew Pearson

George Bernard Shaw

British playwright

Died: 1950

Last Will: The socialist author left a capitalist estate of $1,028,252. Reaffirming his belief in creative evolution rather than in any specific church creed, he asked that memorials to him that took "the form of a cross or any other instrument of torture or symbol of blood sacrifice" be omitted. His ashes were to be sprinkled at Ayot St. Lawrence. "Personally," he wrote in his final instructions, "I prefer the garden to the cloister." Shaw, after making numerous small bequests, left the bulk of his sizable fortune for the development of a British alphabet having 40 letters. The request was contested in court by the British Museum, charging that the conditions imposed were too vague. Seven years later, a compromise was accepted, with only a pound 500 prize being offered in a competition to select a letter design. The 4 winners who split the award were also asked to continue their studies in the search for a replacement to Dr. Johnson's alphabet.

Ernest Hemingway

American writer

Died: 1961

Last Will: Written in 1955 at Finca Vigia, Cuba, his will gave his wife, Mary, sole control and omitted any provision for the children, stating he had "complete confidence" she would provide for them according to written instructions he had given her.

Drew Pearson

American columnist

Died: 1969

Last Will: As Pearson's stepson, Tyler Abell, recalled it, ". . . the son of a bitch had written 7 wills," spaced out over 31 years. They were scribbled on blank paper, hotel stationery, and Western Union forms during Pearson's travels. Only the 1st, attested to in Iowa, was legally acceptable. His estate, valued at over $2 million, left Abell life insurance worth $5,000, with the bulk of the fortune going to Pearson's 2nd wife, Luvie. The lawyers ultimately shared: Some $130,000 went for legal fees to fight cases brought by people named in subsequent wills. The IRS grabbed about $300,000 for taxes. Another $45,000 was paid to settle 2 major libel suits still pending in 1969. Eventually, Pearson's daughter, Mrs. Ellen Arnold, named in a holographic will drawn up in Kentucky in 1962, reached a compromise with Luvie. Mrs. Arnold received title to a 160-acre Potomac farm worth about $500,000. The legal will gave his former partner, Robert S. Allen, the index files for Pearson's "Washington Merry-Go-Round" column, although later wills bequeathed them to Allen's successor, Jack Anderson. Allen dropped his claim in return for $4,000. Pearson died wealthy but cash-poor--he had also been forced into the lecture circuit to refurbish an overdrawn bank account.

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