“So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
(Sonnet XVIII by William Shakespeare, b. Apr. 23, 1564, d. Apr. 23, 1616)
People do some strange things with their last wills and testaments, and Shakespeare was no exception. One item in William Shakespeare’s will, for example, is often cited as being a curious one; “I give unto my wife my second best bed with the furniture.” Why the second best bed? One might wonder if Shakespeare was having some fun at his wife’s expense. Perhaps the author of such comedies as The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing was eccentrically trying to interject some comedy into the last document he ever wrote?
With a little research we discover that giving the “second best bed” to his wife was actually a perfectly natural bequest for 1616, and even more interestingly, Shakespeare did not, in fact, write his own will. This is not to imply that the will is not authentic, but research suggests that even Shakespeare, arguably the most brilliant writer of all time—not to mention he of the quote, “first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”—hired a lawyer to help him write his will and dispose of his property.
Creating a valid will is even more complicated now than it was in the 1600s, and getting the advice of a legal professional even more essential. If your estate planning documents are incomplete or unclear it can result in costly court delays and legal fees, not to mention heated fights between family members that can leave lasting scars.
Even Shakespeare wasn’t afraid to ask his lawyer for help. When the time comes to write your will, follow Shakespeare’s example and let your attorney worry about the legal details, leaving you free to consider the more important questions such as. . . To whom will you give your second best bed?