Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Wills of the Rich and Famous

A lot of the cases one studies in first-year property law classes involve wills in which the dearly departed tries to control the ownership of land from beyond the grave. A famous example is Shakespeare, who's will included an outdated olde common law concept called "fee tail male," which passed on land to a descendents female heirs, but required it to be held until a male heir came along. It didn't work.

In today's New York Times there's another tale of a famous man's money and the battle over his will, that of Alfred Nobel, who died in Paris. How can you not read a story that starts out with:

To secret Nobel’s French assets to the Swedish consulate in Paris before claims might be made on them there, the will’s principal executor literally sat on Nobel’s millions as he rode a horse-drawn cab through Paris. 'I sat with a revolver at the ready in case of a direct attack or a prearranged collision with another vehicle, a trick not unusual among thieves in Paris at the time,' the executor, Ragnar Sohlman, wrote in 'The Legacy of Alfred Nobel,' which was published in English in 1983.
The story goes on from there, with lots of interesting details about the Nobel Prizes and how they have developed.

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