Haunting Estate-Planning Oddities: How a Napkin Put Ted Williams on Ice

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For the Halloween episode of Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp engage in a spirited discussion of the horrors some folks have visited upon their families' finances from the afterlife, by making big mistakes in estate planning.

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In this segment, they consider baseball player Ted Williams, whose head, you may know, has been cryogenically preserved. But if you think that's crazy, how he got there is still more bizarre.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Oct. 31, 2017.

Alison Southwick: It's a classic tale of terror. The Re-Animator. When you thought removing the head was enough, it's time for another inning. That one doesn't make sense, but it's going to make sense. Trust us.

Robert Brokamp: It's true. It's going to make sense because we're talking about a baseball player -- in this case Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams. He actually had a will. He died in 2002. His will said I want to be cremated and I wanted my ashes scattered in the Florida Keys. He lived in Florida at the time.

However, before it was able to be put into effect, two of his children -- he had three kids, one from one marriage and two from another -- the two younger children produced a napkin, and on it was basically written that if we die we want to be put in biostasis -- in other words, cryogenically frozen -- just in case something down the road, we can be reanimated, as you say.

Written on a napkin. The two kids and Ted Williams signed it. Courts look at it and say, "OK, that's Ted Williams' signature. We are going to honor this." They put his body on ice and sent him out to a cryogenic center in Arizona.

The older daughter disputed this and said, "No. His will said he wanted to be cremated. I don't think this napkin is real." She actually thought it was just his autograph and then the other two kids wrote the rest of it around his autograph. He autographed things as Ted Williams, and he signed legal documents as Theodore Williams. Anyway, it doesn't matter. The family spent over $100,000 to have him cryogenically frozen. What that means, by the way, is they separate the head from the body. Put him in these big vats. It's looks like a dairy, essentially. These big, metal vats with valves and tubes coming out of them. And if you want to get really gruesome, just Google what happened to his head after this and the various drillings and crackings that went on. The older daughter eventually gave up because she ran out of money...

Southwick: This wasn't supposed to be a legitimately terrifying episode, by the way.

Brokamp: It's pretty terrifying. So there you have it. He's still under deep freeze. Side note: His one son that also agreed to do this died two years later at a very young age, only 35, of cancer. He also now is in the deep freeze, and by deep I'm talking like 320 degrees below zero, just in case, later on, technologically maybe they'll be able to be reanimated.

Southwick: And what's the lesson here, Bro?

Brokamp: The lesson here is the courts have decided this was Ted Williams' final wishes, but there's certainly debate about that. If you want to change anything to your will, do it officially. Either update your will completely or do what's known as a codicil to the will. But have it officially approved, witnessed, and all those things so there's no debate about any change; not only to what happens to your body when you pass away, but anything. If you want to disinherit someone. Have more kids. Any life events. You should always officially update your will, and not just put the update on a napkin.

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