Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Movie critic Gene Siskel's will specified that he be buried with his thumb pointing up.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1999]
Origins: No, this wasn't a real United Press International story, and no, Gene Siskel didn't leave instructions in his will that he be buried with his thumb pointing up. This is just a goofy humor piece that began working its way around the Internet shortly after the movie critic passed away in February 1999. As Time Out New York reported, a "glance at the will, now on file with a Chicago court, makes clear that there are no digit-placement requests in the critic's last wishes."
Although examples of all sorts of people (not just rich eccentrics) leaving unusual requests in their wills are plentiful, tales about unusual burial instructions left in wills should be taken with a grain of salt. A will is not a good place to specify what you would like done with your earthly remains, especially if your wishes are the least bit out of the ordinary. The will is not usually read immediately upon the testator's death, and quite frequently it is not read until well after the funeral (especially if certain legal obstacles, such as permission to open a safe deposit box, have to be cleared in order to access it). Even the most faithful of executors isn't likely to exhume someone whose alternative burial instructions only became known a week or two after his funeral, and science hasn't yet discovered a means of uncremating a body.
Aside from all that, keeping your burial instructions separate from your will is a good idea because doing so allows you to change your mind without having to amend your will. You're much better off simply writing your wishes down and letting your relatives know where to find your instructions when the time comes.
Last updated: 18 August 2007
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