Famous New York Wills

People are always curious about the funny and bizarre Wills left behind by the famous and eccentric. Not only do we follow the events in their lifetime, we also yearn to know their last words and how they wish to leave their belongings, both tangible and transient.

Here are some of the famous New York Wills which have been recorded:

Aristotle Socrates Onassis

Onassis was a wealthy tycoon shipper born in France in 1906. He moved to New York, had two children there and built wealth with much success. He financed the construction of the Olympic Tower in New York. He died in 1975, aged 69.

His Last Will and Testament was made very public due to a dispute between his daughter, Christina, and his wife Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (former wife of US President John F. Kennedy).

There are varied accounts of the events that actually took place. Onassis and Kennedy separated prior to his death. Some sources state that Onassis’s Will left 55% of his estate to Christina and 45% to a foundation set up in honor of his predeceased son . Others state that more than half was left to the foundation and Christina received the balance share after provision was made for Kennedy. According to the Will, Kennedy was to keep her Tiffany charge account and receive an annual income of $250,000 during her lifetime, $50,000 per annum for her two children, 25% interest in the yacht and the privately owned island, Skorpios (where Onassis and Kennedy were married). Kennedy’s portion was all in addition to the US$3 million she was to receive under the prenuptial agreement.

Public interest in the Will developed as animosity between the Christina and Jacqueline grew. When Christina contested the Will for a larger share, Jackie argued this released her from the prenuptial agreement. After long negotiations, Jackie settled for US$26 million. Christina’s share has since passed to her only child, Anthina Onassis Roussel.

Gouverneur Morris

Morris was a New York statesman and one of the founding fathers of the United States. During his lifetime he had many affairs with married and unmarried women. At the age of 57 he married Anne Cary (“Nancy”) Randolph. They had a child together. In his New York Last Will and Testament Morris left his young widow a generous income. He stipulated that the income was to double if she remarried.

Mrs Robert. C Hayes

Mrs Hayes who died in 1920 left behind one of the more bizarre famous New York Wills. She left her young husband, Robert, aged 35, a new wife (her eldest daughter from a former marriage, Annamae, 21). Annamae had been divorced and Mrs Hayes’ bequest was an attempt to ensure her future happiness with her young widowed husband.

The Last Will specifically instructed that the marriage was to be held within five days of Mrs Hayes’ funeral, who died on a Wednesday. The marriage took place the next Monday.

Harry Helmsley

Helmsley was a New York businessman who built one of the biggest real estate companies in the United States. The portfolio included many famous buildings including the Empire State Building, The New York Harley and the Park Lane Hotel. He died at the age of 87, leaving his estate worth $5.5 billion to his Wife Leona Helmsley. His remains are situated in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, New York.

These famous New York Wills have captured our attention and imagination. The legacies left behind are enormous and captivatingly wild. Just imagine being left an entire private Island or having your income doubled if you remarried after your spouses death.


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