Beneficiaries and Last Wills – 5 Examples of Your Chance to Get Creative

Beneficiaries and Last Wills – 5 Examples of Your Chance to Get Creative

Author: Ryan Derks – Ravenna Capital, 2015

In this article we’ll discuss one of my favorite segments of investing that is often overlooked because it seems more of a requirement than a chance to let your personality shine: your last will & testament and the beneficiaries associated. What are beneficiaries? Beneficiaries are the person(s) or entity that will inherit your investment accounts, or other property, when you die. Nearly everyone I speak to doesn’t like to think too much about this task, which is understandable. It makes sense that someone would want to leave their entire fortune to their closets relatives. However, what I find is that most people don’t realize you can leave money to friends, neighbors, individuals whom you’ve never spoken to, and even organizations. In the end, the decision is up to you how your fortune is dealt with. Instead of taking this as an endorsement in either direction let this act as another tool in your ‘investment knowledge’ toolbox. Let me elaborate with some great case studies:

1) WWF Champion, Shawn Michaels, inherits $2.5 million from fan.
From the Jan. 15, 1996,Wrestling Observer Newsletter: “It was reported a few weeks back on the Jim Shyman 900 line that Shawn Michaels inherited $2.5 million from a wrestling fan that he didn’t know that just passed away. This is a true story. It happened a few months back and word just got out. Michaels had attempted to keep it quiet. At the Michaels press conference in Fresno, he was asked about this and got really mad and said “No comment” and said not to ever bring the subject up again. Michaels still wants to continue wrestling although he’s probably moving into a bigger house.”

2) Have your music played at one of the most prestigious opera houses.
McNair Ilgenfritz was a wealthy individual who loved music and creating music. Unfortunately for him, he was unsuccessful in that pursuit. That didn’t stop him from leaving $125,000 to the New York Metropolitan Opera House – only if it agreed to stage an opera he had written. Although they had nice words for the late Ilgenfritz, they declined the gift. This story comes from TIME Magazine June 1954 issue.

3) People who love their pets….too much.
This was reported by back in August 2007. Two famous cases are real estate businesswoman, Leona Helmsley, and singer, Dusty Springfield. Leona Helmsley had plenty of assets to pass along, so she set up a $12 million trust for her dog, Trouble. At the same time, she nixed two grandchildren. Dusty Springfield had a clause for her cat Nicholas that 1) purchased a lifetime supply of imported baby food for the pet; and 2) had Dusty’s nightgown line Nicholas’ bed; and 3) play Dusty Springfield’s music for the cat each night.
Some people are weird.

4) Have yourself sent to outer space!
Yes, there is a company that will do this. is a company that will help you plan this journey to the outer limits before you die. When you die they will take your ashes, strap them on a rocket (along with other cans of ashes), and send you up on a rocket. Does the thought of this leave you sad because you won’t leave anything to your friends and family? Don’t worry! The package includes a complimentary DVD of the rocket launch to send to loved ones.

5) A personal anecdote
My father’s aunt lived and died in Kansas City, Missouri. Her husband had passed several years before her, and they had no children. When she died, she had a six-figure lump sum left to a facility in rural Kansas that trains puppies to be guide dogs for the blind. It surprised me because I had no idea she was passionate about that cause. So about 6 years go by and the parents of my best friend end up becoming foster parents for a dog. Turns out this dog is one that was raised at that same facility. They were training the dog for a 9-month program that would familiarize the dog with interacting with the public. The parents of my friend found out about the gift from a few years back and commented that the facility is beautiful and new training buildings had been constructed as a result of my aunt’s generous contribution.

Final thought:
Now that you have some creative inspiration, consider how you could make an impact in the world! Your local museum, inner city charity, political think tank, or favorite celebrity would sure be thankful. Keep in mind that with a normal beneficiary form you may be able to leave your money to a person or organization. With a will you may be able to leave requests – like “shoot me into outer space.” Be sure to speak with a professional in personal finance or a trust attorney to find out how to do this correctly. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Curious about what charities you could leave a portion of your fortune to? Check out They have a nationwide list that is constantly updated.

Investment Advisor Representative of and securities offered through Berthel Fisher & Company Financial Services, Inc. (BFCFS). Member FINRA/SIPC. Ravenna Capital is independent of BFCFS. Our firm does not provide legal or tax advice. Be sure to consult with your own legal and tax advisors before taking any action that may have tax implications. The interpretations and organization of these ideas are the confidential thoughts of Ryan Derks and do not represent the opinions of Berthel Fisher & Co. Financial Services, Inc. This article may not be re-published without prior express written permission.