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"Let's Kill All the Lawyers"

View profile for Stephen Lawson
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"Let’s kill all the lawyers" is a line from William Shakespeare’s play Henry VI part 2.  It is one of Shakespeare’s most famous lines as well as one of his most controversial. 

Academics have long argued about whether or not this was an attempt at a joke – or a serious proposition.  What is clear however is that Shakespeare went on to make a will – that was actually prepared by his lawyer – Francis Collins, in January 1616. He left his “second best” bed to Anne Hathaway – so perhaps his line about killing all the lawyers was a joke – but his actions also show the importance of getting good quality advice when preparing a will. 

Sadly some people don’t use the services of a lawyer to make a will and, as we at FDR Law, see, things can go quite disastrously wrong.  It is quote common for us to see “well meaning” friends and neighbours offer to help an elderly person make a will – somewhat strangely we find that the individual helping an old person to make a will somehow becomes a beneficiary of the will – and allegations of undue influence later arise. 

We have recently dealt with the estate of a famous academic.  He was undoubtedly a very clever man – so “clever” that he decided when he wanted to make a will that he didn’t need a lawyer – not heeding the actions of William Shakespeare.  He decided that he could write his own will by going on the Internet. He did indeed produce his own will and sadly subsequently passed away.   Even more sadly he made, what may be kindly described as, a “mess” of the provisions in his will leading to a dispute after he died about what he actually intended to mean and who exactly he intended to benefit from his will.

Actually the comparison with the times of William Shakespeare is quite apt.  For much of Shakespeare’s life the country was ravaged by plague – at that time it was not realised that the plague was spread by fleas on rats – but the country entered lockdown.  Between 1603 and 1617 the Globe Theatre and other theatres in London were closed for a total of 78 months – but Shakespeare used this period of lockdown to good effect writing several of his plays during this period – including King Lear.

We at FDR have been using the lockdown to write some words of our own.  So here is our attempt:

There was a writer called Bill
Who decided he needed a will…
He was right

If you can improve on our poetry then please feel free to do so – and if you are really inspired you can write a Shakespeare masterpiece – but do give some thought to making – or updating, your will and please get proper advice - particularly if your financial or domestic circumstances are complex.  Our Private Client team are here to help you – but if you don’t use them our Litigators are here to help you if it goes wrong

The Wills & Probate Team at FDR
Tel: 01925 230000