The man who left his money to Christ: the UK's oddest wills

Emma Woollacott
Albert Orton's will
Albert Orton's will

The wife of Albert Orton must really have regretted calling her husband a 'rotten old pig' for breaking wind. When he died in 1888, he left her only half a farthing in his will out of disgust at her unkindness.

The story is just one of many unearthed by genealogy firm Fraser and Fraser, which has collated some of the strangest requests it's ever discovered in a will.

Others include the man who left £26,000 to Jesus Christ - provided his identity could be established.

Some show extraordinary animosity, such as the will of Annie Langabeer, from Sutton in Surrey, who died aged 59 in 1932. She stipulated in her will that her brother-in-law, Daniel Jones, should be paid two shillings and sixpence to enable him to purchase a rope to hang himself with.

Others show attempts to control family members from beyond the grave. Frank Smith, from Romsey in Hampshire, died in November 1942, leaving all his possessions to his daughter - with one condition. If she continued living with her 'immoral husband' or allowing him to benefit from the inheritance, Smith wrote, the whole lot was go to the Exchequer.

Fraser and Fraser staff have pored through an astonishing 200,000 wills while trying to trace people's family trees.

"We have looked through around 200,000 wills since 1969 and it's quite hard to spot the unusual lines because they are typically just one paragraph in a five page document," says partner BNeil Fraser.

"But every now and again you will stumble across a funny line, paragraph or strange request which makes us laugh in the office.
I think there is always a place for humour in a will. The older wills are certainly a lot more formal, and that is because they would have all been written by a solicitor."

But while these wills may be bizarre, at least they exist - research has shown that as many as six in ten people in the UK don't have a valid will. Many people believe, wrongly, that if they die intestate, their spouse gets everything, but this isn't necessarily the case.

"Having a will is the only way to ensure that your estate is dealt with in the exact same way you want it to be," says Fraser.

"You can write anything in your will, including bizarre requests, and this list proves that. If you write in your will that you want people to have a barbecue after you die and the people only ate horse meat burgers - that will happen."

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