Strangest inheritance tales – overnight billionaire, £12m dog, ‘baby race’ scandal
Ever wished your money worries could just disappear overnight? Sometimes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
This week, a bellboy was left stunned after being gifted a small fortune by a wealthy British tourist guest.
The substantial sum of cash is reported to be the lion’s share of the inheritance left by British tourist Charles George Courtney, whose age was not stated.
While the exact amount of money was not revealed, it is said to be enough that Taskin Dasdan, the Turkish hotel worker, does not need to work again.
The incredible act of generosity is just one of countless unbelievable inheritance tales over the years, which range from the kind-hearted to the petty and outright bizarre.
From the dog that became an overnight millionaire to the families drawn into a deranged baby race, here we reveal some of the most unusual stories.
‘Queen of Mean’ leaves millions to dog
Known as the ‘Queen of Mean’, Leona Helmsley was an infamous hotel billionaire whose death proved just as colourful as her life.
Ruthlessly cut-throat, the New York businesswoman became a symbol of Eighties capitalist excess when it was revealed she told her housekeeper: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”
Over the years, Helmsley tormented her poor employees. When a waiter spilled a slight bit of water on a saucer at one of her hotels, she smashed the cup on the floor and told him to beg for his job.
When she refused to pay a bill for a $13,000 barbecue pit due to “shoddy workmanship”, an acquaintance told her the builder had six children to feed.
Her cutting response was: “Why didn’t he keep his pants on? Then he wouldn’t need the money.”
In true diva fashion, when Helmsley died in 2007 at the age of 87, her will bestowed much of her vast fortune to her pet pooch.
The terrier, named Trouble, was left $12million – more than the $10million gifted to her brother. Two of her grandchildren, meanwhile, were left nothing.
Trouble, who died in 2011, was blind and plagued with health issues in her final years.
Her caretaker spent $100,000 annually on her care – including $8,000 for grooming and $1,200 for dog food – while the pooch reportedly also faced around 20 to 30 death and kidnapping threats.
Benefactors picked out from phone book
As many an unfortunate lottery winner will testify, money can’t always buy you happiness.
So it proved for Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral de Camara, a wealthy but miserable Portuguese aristocrat who in 2007 drank himself to an early grave.
With few friends and no children, Luis Carlos deciced upon a rather unusual way to divide up his fortune.
Asking a notary for a copy of the Lisbon phone book, he picked out 70 names at random whom he would bestow his fortune on.
“I thought it was some kind of cruel joke,” a 70-year-old woman told Portugal’s Sol newspaper. “I’d never heard of the man.”
The surprised heirs were contacted by lawyers, who set about dividing up Luis Carlos’ fortune, which included a 12-bedroom apartment in Lisbon.
“He was determined that nothing should go to the state, which he thought had been robbing him of money all his life,” said Anibal Castro, a former friend who witnessed the will.
“He probably wanted to create confusion by leaving his things to strangers.
“I remember the notary asking him several questions to make sure that he wasn’t mad after he asked her to hand him the Lisbon regional phone book.”
Local DJ turned into instant billionaire
Working as a DJ for a local radio station in Maldova, Sergey Sudev one day heard a story over the news wire that stopped him in his tracks.
A mega-rich businessman had died in Germany, leaving his huge estate to his nephew – Sergey Sudev.
Despite only meeting his uncle twice in his life – the last time being more than a decade ago – the 31-year-old became practically a billionaire overnight in 2008 after being left an eye-watering €950million fortune.
The huge sum – more than the annual budget of Maldova – included controlling interest in a German bank and properties across Germany, Italy, and France.
Sergey, a journalism student, suddenly found himself the most-talked about man in his hometown of Komrat – and a rather popular one at that.
“For the time being, this fortune brings me only problems and headache,” he reportedly said of the news.
“I wouldn’t like to get into trouble because of it. I can not go out like I did before.
“I decided to buy a pack of cigarettes today, but the people in the store crowded me with their questions, congratulations and requests.”
Kind-hearted waitress rewarded with fortune
Widowed and childless, Bill Cruxton spent his last days enjoying the company at his favourite Ohio restaurant.
Sat at the same table every day, he was often served by Cara Wood, a kind 17-year-old who used to run errands for the 80-year-old in her spare time.
Waitress Cara Wood was left a fortune by a regular at her restaurant
Following Bill’s death in 1992, the staff of Dink’s Restaurant were astonished to hear his $500,000 fortune had been left to the young waitress – much to the chagrin of his immediate family.
“Mr Cruxton’s longtime friends all agree this was not the same guy,” said Mark Fishman, the attorney of Bill’s sister Bruck, his only living relative.
“The Bill Cruxton that they knew was a very conservative and down-to-earth guy. This is the last thing they would have expected from the true Bill Cruxton.”
Workers at Dink’s, however, painted a different picture. Following the death of Bill’s wife of 40 years from cancer in 1989, the restaurant became his family, they said.
If he was late for a meal, Cara would call to make sure he was ok, and when her dad died, Bill was keen to repay her kindness.
“He knew that Cara’s dad had died,” said Maggie North, a waitress at Dink’s.
“I think he felt like he was a father figure. I know he bought her some gifts and things. I think he was lonely.”
The ‘Great Stork Derby’
Unquestionably the most bonkers and elaborate inheritance story around, Canada’s ‘Great Stork Derby’ remains a controversial tale to this day.
When eccentric lawyer Charles Millar died in 1926, he promised his fortune – equivalent to more than $10 million today – to whichever woman in Toronto could give birth to the most babies in the following decade.
While some assumed it was little more than a prank, others deemed it a social experiment or a critique of the government’s policies towards birth control.
Whatever the case, Charles’ pledge gave way to an unprecedented baby boom – with 11 families officially ‘competing’ for the prize in what became known as the ‘Great Stork Derby’.
The story was a sensation, and the Toronto Star even assigned a reporter to chase families around the city snapping up exclusivity agreements.
At the end of the decade, a tie was eventually declared between Annie Katherine Smith, Kathleen Ellen Nagle, Lucy Alice Timleck and Isabel Mary Maclean – each of whom gave birth to nine children.
The competition proved highly controversial and was bitterly contested in court, but each mother ultimately walked away with enough to buy new houses and to pay for their kids’ educations.