When billionaire Howard Hughes died in 1976, he left no children, wife, or siblings behind. He also left no will. Sorting out who inherited what from his vast holdings turned out to be a real nightmare.
While the various parties were fighting it out, a couple of different wills surfaced, though eventually thrown out as fakes. A notable one was the three-page document that declared Melvin Dummar, a gas station attendant, was to inherit 1/16 of Hughes’ fortune. Supposedly, Dummar once picked Hughes up off the side of the road and gave him a ride to his hotel, and Hughes was so grateful that he left Dummar a huge chunk of money. In 1978, the will was thrown out as a forgery.
Next, “wives” started emerging from Hughes’ past, taking advantage of his reclusive reputation to explain why no one had heard of them before. Terry Moore, an actress, claimed to have married Hughes twice, but provided no documentation to support her assertions. She did, in fact, once live with Hughes in the 1940s, but her claim that they were not only married, but never divorced, was called into question given the fact that she married three times after her supposed marriage to Hughes. Nevertheless, she must have put forward a good argument, or at least pestered the estate managers so much that they decided to pay her just to get rid of her, because she was paid $400,000 by the estate. Later, Moore wrote a book titled Beauty and a Billionaire which made the bestseller list, likely lining her pockets a bit more.
In addition to supposed wives, an extraordinary number of Hughes’ supposed children decided to acknowledge their deceased father. One was said to be the lovechild of Hughes and Amelia Earhart—product of the Mile High Club?—even though Earhart never had any children. At least two were black, but their claims were thrown out as Hughes was known to be quite the racist.