How the inheritance of a rich Englishman was divided

In 1798, William Jennens, who was rightfully considered the richest man in England, died in the English town of Acton, Suffolk County. Mr. Jennens' fortune was estimated at that time in the amount of 2, 000, 000 pounds sterling - for the end of the 18th century it was a huge capital.

At the time of his death, the millionaire was already 97 years old, but he did not have direct heirs; during his long life, William Jennens did not acquire either a wife or children. And in his way of life, he resembled Gogol's Plyushkin: he lived in a house that his father bought in 1708, all his life he used furniture that he inherited from his parents, he did not spend on house repairs, and his servants lived in the basement. Like the hero of Gogol's work, he did not like to receive guests, and he himself did not visit anyone.

At the same time, Jennens was a successful investor, gave money at a solid interest, which increased his already considerable capital. He especially liked to lend to gamblers who lost their money at bets and in casinos.

After his death, Jennens was buried in the family crypt of the local church next to his parents, and a long-term division of his property began, which, in addition to the main capital, brought in about 40 thousand pounds sterling annually. The millionaire did not leave a will, and the court decided to transfer a huge inheritance to the grand-nephew of the deceased, but soon the young man died without taking advantage of the enormous fortune.

Later, they tried to distribute the inheritance among the relatives, but more and more of them appeared, and each tried to prove that it was he who should own most of the tempting inheritance. Gradually, everyone who had at least some, albeit the most distant, relationship with William Jennens joined the fight. It turned out that dividing such an inheritance is not an easy task.

The litigation ended only 117 years later, in 1915, naturally, that at that time none of the claimants for the inheritance had ever even seen Jennens. Moreover, this long-term process ended in a rather unusual way: there was simply nothing to divide, the entire inheritance was spent on paying lawyers and legal costs.

This unusual process inspired the English writer Charles Dickens to write Bleak House, which was published in 1850. By the way, Dickens himself died in 1870, never knowing how the struggle for the huge fortune of William Jennens ended.