Top 3 Most Mysterious Wills – Will Writing Services in Brighton

In the run up to Halloween we would like to share some intriguing and mysterious Wills that went through long legal processes due to some puzzling points of contention.

After each article we have included a short segment about how these problems can be avoided – but if everyone worked with excellent solicitors, there wouldn’t be as many intriguing probate mysteries.

The Howard Hughes Will Mystery

Howard Hughes, once one of the world’s wealthiest individuals, left the United States legal system in turmoil when he passed away in 1976 without a valid Will and testament. Born in 1905, Hughes inherited significant wealth from his family’s success in the oil drilling business. After a life-altering plane crash in 1946, Hughes became increasingly reclusive, struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder and drug use.

Upon Hughes’s death, the absence of a Will complicated the distribution of his considerable assets, including land, multiple aeroplanes, casino properties, a helicopter manufacturer and casino chips. Over 600 claimants emerged, some stating that they were his relatives, with wildly imaginative stories. The court faced an array of unverified allegations, from forged Wills to claims of romantic entanglements with Hughes.

It took five years to resolve these issues, with the Harris County Probate Court in Texas ultimately dividing Hughes’s vast fortune among numerous claimants. The complex case even reached the Supreme Court twice. Finally, in 2010, the estate was settled, distributing a substantial portion of Hughes’s wealth to his distant relatives and heirs. 

Burt Brill & Cardens insight: this legal saga portrays the importance of having a clear and legally valid Will to avoid such contentious disputes over estate distribution. It also allows the people you care about to have a simpler grieving process without the additional stress from intestacy.

Sir Peter Ustinov and his Unconventional Will

Sir Peter Ustinov CBE FRSA was a British actor, filmmaker, writer, and raconteur who died in 2004. Renowned for roles in films like “Spartacus” and “Death on the Nile,” Ustinov’s cultural versatility extended to diplomacy and academia. He served as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF as well as president of the World Federalist Movement. Durham University renamed their Graduate Society to Ustinov College in his honour.

When Ustinov died his son, Igor Cloutier von Ustinov, was entangled in a lengthy and costly legal battle over his father’s estate. The dispute revolved around the allegation that Sir Peter placed a significant portion of his wealth, including intellectual property rights to his work, in trusts designed to benefit his children from multiple marriages.

The case caused some controversy as it featured Ustinov’s Will which was not only written in the late 1960s, during his marriage to his 2nd wife but it was also written in pencil. The Swiss courts declared it invalid, ruling that Sir Peter had died intestate. According to Swiss law, the estate then passed to Sir Peter’s third wife, Lady Helene, who had cared for him during his final years.

In a 2013 legal development in London’s High Court, Igor attempted to bring the dispute from Swiss courts to the UK but his case was rejected by the judge, leading to a bitter defeat. The judge criticised Igor for failing to provide evidence of the trusts’ existence and described his claim as “the most fragile claim imaginable”.

Burt Brill & Cardens Insight: The Ustinov family drama serves as a reminder of the complexities and legal battles that can arise in multi-marriage, high-value estate cases, especially when the deceased’s Will is written in an unconventional manner. Always make sure your Will is written in a professional manner and is updated after big life events (such as births, separations, weddings and deaths).

The Huguette Clark Will Controversy

The Huguette Clark Will Controversy revolves around the estate of Huguette Clark, a reclusive and wealthy heiress who passed away in 2011 at the age of 104. Her death brought to light a series of legal battles and questions surrounding her Will.

Huguette Clark, daughter of a copper mining magnate, left behind a vast fortune, estimated at around $300 million. She spent her final two decades in a New York hospital while her opulent homes remained vacant. 

In 2005 she wrote two Wills only six weeks apart. The first left $5 million to her long-time nurse whilst everything else would go to her 21 closest relatives. The second disinherited her family members, leaving the majority of her estate to her nurse, her doctor, the hospital and funds to set up an arts foundation in her Californian mansion. Her family contested the Will, arguing that she was not mentally competent at the time it was drafted. Moreover they believed that undue influence may have played a role as her solicitors had essentially cut off the family’s contact with her during the latter years of her life.

In the end, the legal battles were settled through a negotiated agreement in 2013. The settlement provided substantial bequests to her family members, as well as significant contributions to the arts foundation and the hospital. Her solicitors received nothing and her private nurse was expected to pay back millions in gifts that she received.

Burt Brill & Cardens insight: when taking the steps to create and write a Will, perhaps think about setting up an LPA at the same time. This way if you should ever lose capacity, you can make sure that your best interests are always at heart and you have someone you trust looking after you and your estate.

Will Writing Services in Brighton

At Burt Brill and Cardens Solicitors we work closely with you and take into consideration all your wishes when creating a Will. If you have niche requests we will provide expert, professional and sensitive Will-writing services.

We also have the ability to store original Wills on the premises so that you never need to worry about it going missing.

Contact us today for more information by calling our office on 01273 604 123, email us at or fill in our enquiry form.


Get in touch

Speak to one of our solicitors today. We would love to hear from you and discuss any legal issues you may have and how we can assist you.

Find Us

30 Old Steine, Brighton, BN1 1FL