Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

From Liberace to Tupac Shakur: Using Celebrity Wills in the Classroom

Last_willThis month's Trusts & Estates has an article of interest for those of us who like to punch up our tax classes with real life examples involving the rich and famous. In A Century of Celebrity Wills, Herbert Nass (Herbert E. Nass & Associates, New York City) discusses the wills of these folks drawn from his book, Wills of the Rich and Famous (1991):

Marlon Brando
Humphrey Bogart
Calvin Coolidge
Walt Disney
W.C. Fields
Clark Gable
Harry Houdini
Rock Hudson
• J.P. Morgan
Jacqueline Onassis
Cole Porter
Elvis Presley
Babe Ruth
Mark Twain
John Wayne
Of course, to really sink students' teeth into the underlying tax issues one needs the actual wills in question. Fortunately, the Internet is loaded with these and many other celebrity wills at various sites. The most comprehensive site is Britain's National Archives, which contains over 1 million wills. Other sources include:
Wills and Obituaries
CourtTV: Wills of the Famous
Famous Wills
Ten Famous Wills
Celebrity Wills (fee-based site)
MegaDox Celebrity Wills
Perhaps these wills would be of more interest to today's generation of law students:
John Candy
Kurt Cobain
Princess Diana
Chris Farley
Bruce Lee
John Lennon
River Phoenix
Tupac Shakur
J.R.R. Tolkien
My favorites:
John Belushi
Napoleon Bonaparte
Winston Churchill
Howard Cosell
James Dean
Joe DiMaggio
Albert Einstein
T.S. Eliot
Ben Franklin
Jerry Garcia
Jimi Hendrix
John Houseman (Professor Kingsfield)
Lyndon Johnson
Janis Joplin
Andy Kaufman
John Kennedy
Robert Kennedy
Keith Moon
Jim Morrison
Gilda Radner
Franklin Roosevelt
William Shakespeare
Frank Sinatra
John Steinbeck
Harry Truman
George Washington
Ted Williams
Stevie Wonder
(Many web sites list "songs in my iPod" -- maybe this post will spark a similar "wills in my hard drive" feature.). I previously have mined a celebrity will (Warren Burger's) in an article, Chief Justice Burger: A Better Tax Lawyer Than His Critics, 69 Tax Notes 1020 (1995).

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Tracked on May 29, 2007 7:53:53 PM


Thanks for the index. I assign a review of a celebrity will each term to my students and alas, whatever comes up first on Google always dominates the assignments. I appreciate the variety this list will bring (not to mention the insight into student's popular culture inclinations it will provide).

Posted by: Ohwilleke | Oct 20, 2004 8:05:41 AM