We often hear about how the estates of dead celebrities are able to bring in vast amounts of money for years following the death of the famous individual. Forbes even publishes an annual list detailing which dead celebrities earn the most (Michael Jackson topped the list in 2013, bringing in approximately $125 million last year). While the idea of dead celebrities bringing in lots of money after they have died is itself not so unusual, a story reported in the Toronto Star this week caught my attention as it brought up a rather unconventional way for the estates of famous individuals to bring in some extra cash.
The Toronto Star reported that a copy of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Will was sold at auction this week in Paris, bringing in approximately $483,000.00 (more than twice what had been expected). The Will, dated April 16, 1821, apparently offered exceptional insight into Napoleon’s final days, including that he wanted his ashes spread over Paris’ Seine River “in the midst of the French people, whom I have loved so well” (they are instead interned in Paris’ Invalides monument).
The article raised an interesting concept for me, as I had never thought about what value might be contained in the physical document of the Will itself. A quick review online revealed that the sale of Napoleon’s Will was not an isolated event, and that as recently as May 2013 Mahatma Gandhi’s Will had sold at auction for £55,000.00.
My curiosity then lead me to eBay, where I discovered that not only could you buy copies of Wills from such figures as Robert E. Lee (no guarantee as to authenticity), but also those of more regular individuals from centuries past.
So let this be a lesson to all Estate Trustees out there for famous individuals. Short on cash? Wanting to make Forbes’ list next year? Why not try selling your famous individual’s Will. As to what impact selling your Will may have on your ability to administer the Estate, I will not comment.
The probate office must be sitting on a gold mine.
Thank you for reading.