1The Portuguese aristocrat who left his fortune to 70 total strangers randomly chosen from a phone directory
Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara made an unusual distribution of his money after his death: 70 people listed in a Lisbon phone directory were contacted out of the blue after his death to be told he had made them his beneficiaries. They had been chosen at random from the directory, in front of two witnesses at a registry office 13 years before. It certainly came as a shock to them. In the first place, people do not, as a rule, make wills in Portugal. In the second, Portuguese aristocrats are getting thin on the ground, let alone eccentric ones. In the third - to be chosen by phone directory? No wonder that some feared they were being scammed.
2The homeless brothers who inherited more than 100 million euros
A pair of penniless down and outs inherited a share of a 4 billion GBP fortune after a bizarre twist in family fortunes. Brothers Zsolt and Geza Peladi were so poor they lived in a cave outside Budapest, Hungary, and sold scrap they found on the street for pennies. Now both of them and a sister who lives in America inherited their grandmother's massive fortune after a life of poverty. "We knew our mother came from a wealthy family but she was a difficult person and had severed ties with them, then later abandoned us and we lost touch with her and our father until she eventually died," said Geza, 43.
They learned of their good fortune after homelessness charity workers in Hungary were contacted by lawyers handling the estate of the brothers' maternal grandmother who died recently in Baden-Wurttenberg, Germany. Under German law direct descendents are automatically entitled to a share of any estate - that would pass from their dead mother to them.
3The student who inherited almost a billion euros from an uncle he hadn't seen for a decade
Sergey Sudev was left a 950 million euros fortune by an uncle he had not seen for 10 years. But he must have made a good impression at their meeting a decade ago, because it prompted the uncle, who lived in Germany, to write Sudev into his will straight away. The student had no idea he stood to inherit a fortune and got on with his course in journalism.Then one day there was a knock at his door in the town of Komrat - his uncle's agents had tracked him down to pass on the incredible news. A shocked Sudev is reported to have said to them: "Is this a joke?" The inheritance means he has become one of the richest men in Moldova, where the average monthly salary is around 270 euros.
4The richest woman in Asia gave away her multi-billion-US-dollar fortune to a feng shui master in return for a promise of eternal life
Nina Wang, who died of cancer in 2007 at age 69, signed over her vast fortune to a previously unknown feng shui master Tony Chan as a promise for eternal life. Wang changed her will in 2006 in order to leave everything to the feng shui master, voiding a previous will written four years earlier that left the fortune to her family and to charity. With no children of her own, Wang wrote a new will in 2006, two years after her ovarian cancer was diagnosed, making 48-year-old Chan her sole beneficiary.
The question is, why would Chan ask Wang to put him in her will if he had ensured her she would live forever, or at least for a very long time?
5The waitress who inherited a little fortune from a customer
In 1992, Cara Wood was 17 and working at Drin's Colonial Restaurant in her hometown of Chagrin Falls, about 15 miles east of Cleveland. She was a good employee – bright, friendly and helpful. One customer, Bill Cruxton, liked her so much that he always sat in her section. A widower with no children, he went daily to the restaurant for his meals and some company, so they became friends. In addition to being his regular waitress, she helped him around the house and ran errands for him. Wood became so important to Cruxton that he rewrote his will, making her the main beneficiary. Cruxton, 82, died of heart failure in November 1992 and left her half a million dollars.
6The Argentine maid who recived $40m after a judicial battle that involved a corpse's robbery
Eva Paole, a retired Argentine maid, has inherited the whopping sum of $40 million after a nine-year legal battle. It was a decade ago that Paole first heard the rumor that she might be the daughter of baron Rufino Otero, who died in 1983 and had no children with his wife. Until then, Paole always had thought she was the daughter of her mother, Josefa, and her partner. Her mother took the secret of Eva's real father to her grave. According to Eva, "money isn't everything" and what is really important for her is that she has finally discovered her true identity. DNA tests showed she truly is the daughter of the powerful landowner who died 25 years ago.
If all of that wasn't enough material for a soap opera, six weeks after Eva began legal proceedings, Otero's tomb was desecrated and his corpse exchanged for another. To establish Paole's relation to Otero, authorities used the remains of the land baron's mother, Justina Porras instead.
7The teenager who inherited an Island with a buried treasure
Josh wasn't close to his grandfather and in fact, he had met him just a handful of times in his 17 years. Stubborn and highly traditional, Samuel disapproved of his daughter Susan's marriage to a man from outside of their religious faith, but he'd always had a soft spot for his only grandson. Although he hadn't seen his grandson in years before his death in 2007, Josh was named the heir to what remained of his grandfather's estate, including a 36-acre island and more than 80 acres of farmland. But there was something unexpected in the will… a detailed list of antique jewellery and loose gems contained “in the thermos.” There was no indication at all of where this portion of Josh's inheritance was. But Susan did remember the oblique references her father had always made of his “treasure island” when she was a child.
So now the hunt is on, and while finding Samuel's hidden thermos of precious gems is far from a sure bet, the family is confident that it will soon turn up somewhere on (or under) the island's 36 acres.
8The Terrier who inherited a $12m fortune
New York hotelier and real estate billionaire Leona Helmsley (called the Queen of Mean) has left $12m (£5.97m) to her pet dog, Trouble. The pampered pooch received the largest bequest from Mrs Helmsley's will while some human members of Mrs Helmsley's family fared less well, with two of her four grandchildren cut out of the will entirely.
The money for Trouble's upkeep was left in the hands of her brother, Alvin Rosenthal, who inherited $10m himself.
9The man who left part of his inheritance to the woman who would give birth to the most children 10 years after his death
Though highly successful in law and in his investments, Millar is now known primarily for his love of jokes and pranks which played on people's greed and hypocrisy. Millar's greatest and final prank was his will, which says in part: "This Will is necessarily uncommon and capricious because I have no dependents or near relations and no duty rests upon me to leave any property at my death and what I do leave is proof of my folly in gathering and retaining more than I required in my lifetime."
The will was full of playful bequests. But the final bequest of his will was the largest and strangest. In the will's ninth clause, Millar's estate's balance was required to be converted to cash ten years after his death and given to the woman who gave birth to the most children in that time. In the event of a tie, the bequest would be divided equally. The resulting contest became known as the Great Stork Derby.
10The homeless who fled police while bringing him news of a $6-million inheritance
A homeless man supposed to be living on the streets of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia fled police who were bringing him news of a $6-million inheritance. Tomas Martinez, 67, apparently thought the police were about to arrest him for his alcohol and drug habits. The man disappeared without a trace, causing Bolivian newspapers to speak of him in 2000 as a "new millionaire paradoxically not knowing his fortune". The inheritance came to Mr Martinez from his ex-wife, Ines Gajardo Olivares, who inherited the money herself from family members. She evidently did not blame him for leaving her several years ago.
The (un)lucky man has never been found.