by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
WILLS, CLAUSES & OTHER “NARISHKAYT” *
*The Yiddish word for foolishness is “narishkayt”
The Yiddish word for will (testament) is “tsavoe.”
Leo Rosten said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a wail.”
eHow Legal Editor says, “Let’s face it, it’s never pleasant to think about preparing for your death. Unfortunately, not enough Americans do—about half die without a will. Not having a will means the courts distribute your property according to state laws.”
Leona Helmsley, the hotel and “grunteygns” (real estate) investor, wrote a 14-page will. She set aside $12 million for the care of her beloved 8-year-old Maltese, “Trouble.” Mrs. Helmsley left trusts of $10 “milyon” to benefit her brother and trusts of 5 “milyon” each to benefit her grandsons, David and Walter Panzier. She also left $5 “milyon” to each of them outright, and $100,000 to her “shofer” (chauffeur), Nicholas Celea.
The “Queen of Mean” also directed that “Anything bearing the HELMSLEY name must be maintained in “mint” condition.
Marvel Comics writer, Mark Gruenwald’s will, called for his ashes to be mixed with ink and used within the pages of a comic book. Four thousand “ink and ashes” issues of Squadron Supreme were produced after his untimely death at 42.
And there’s the curious case of the Shavian Alphabet. Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw famously included a contest in his will that called for his fortune to be given to the person that successfully created a new English alphabet. The stipulation was that the alphabet be entirely phonetic and not Latin-based. Shaw contended that Latin was not a good language for translating English, leaving us with too many unusual word spellings. The Shavian Alphabet would have no less than 40 characters, each one corresponding to a sound. An Englishman named Kingsley Read shared the prize money with four other contestants among 400 entries.
Singer, Dusty Springfield, had a clause that a bequest be used to purchase a lifetime supply of her cat Nicholas’ favorite meal—imported baby food. It also called for Springfield’s nightgown to line Nicholas’ bed and for her music to be played for her special feline each evening.
Anthony Scott, in his last will and testament wrote: “To my first wife, Sue, whom I always promised to mention in my will. Hello Sue!”
The Jackie Kennedy Onassis will said—in part—“I give and bequeath to my friend, Maurice Tempelsman, if he survives me, my Greek alabaster head of a woman if owned by me at the time of my death.”
Sometimes, people have stipulations that allow them to accomplish in death what they couldn’t in life. McNair Llgrenfritz, a wealthy but unsuccessful composer, left $125,000 to the New York Metropolitan Opera House—if it agreed to stage an opera he had written. Unfortunately, the Met declined the “breythartsik” (generous) offer, even though they found that the music was workable.
Onni Nurmi, a Finnish businessman, left 780 shares of a rubber boot company to the residents of a nursing home in Finland. That company later became cell phone giant, Nokia, and the residents of the nursing home became millionaires.
Portuguese aristocrat, Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara picked 70 random strangers from a Lisbon phone book 13 years before his death and made them his sole beneficiaries. The people were not notified until after his death, leading many of them to believe they were being conned.
There can be stipulations in the will that the beneficiary must satisfy in order to receive assets. For instance, you can bequeath a portion of your estate to one of “der kinder” (the children) with the stipulations that he or she must quit smoking or earn a college degree.
The Chicago Jewish News reports that an Illinois court will be asked to judge whether someone can disinherit his grandchildren for marrying a non-Jew. Max Feinberg, who died in 1986 at age 77, had his “advokat” (lawyer) insert a clause in his will concerning the distribution of his considerable financial assets. It stated that none of his grandchildren, or their children or grandchildren, would inherit the $150,000 he had allotted to each of them if they married a non-Jewish spouse unless the spouse converted to Judaism. Apparently, when you’re giving your money away, you can have some prejudices.
Subsequently, one of his grandchildren sought to prove that the clause was “khoyle” (invalid). An Illinois court agreed. Now the Illinois Appelate Court has confirmed the decision, with one Jewish justice offering an impassioned dissent. The case may now go to the Illinois Supreme Court.
One columnist discussed the Max Feinberg case in an article titled, “MARRY GOYIM, YOU GET BUBKIS; ILLINOIS COURT STRIKES ‘JEWISH CLAUSE.’”
“Alts vet zikh oysglaykhn.” (Everything will smooth itself out.)
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe adheres to the saying that, “The person who works and saves will someday have enough wealth to divide with those who don’t.”