The Beatles: Cryptic Estate Planning Lyrics?

September 26, 2010

Whenever we hear a song that has somewhat puzzling lyrics, it seems to be a favorite pastime of ours to figure out what the artists were trying to say.  But did you ever notice that common interpretations inevitably lead to some kind of carnal act, worship of an unsavory figure or a political or religious advertisement?  Is there ever any music that secretly suggests prudent action or practical advice?

Fortunately, there is.  After many minutes of research, I have discovered that throughout their history, the Beatles were actually well-versed and big proponents of sound estate planning strategies.  Let’s take a look at some of their songs to illustrate some of their messages that were hidden — until now:

  • “When I’m Sixty-Four” – Personal Representatives.  In this song, Paul is interviewing the listener to glean if he or she would be an appropriate executor, trustee, or attorney-in-fact (“give me your answer, fill out a form”).  Some traits he seems to be looking for include reliability (“will you still be sending me a valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?”), competence (“if I’d been out till quarter to three, would you lock the door?”) and availability (“will you still feed me, when I’m 64?”).

  • “Taxman” – Estate Taxes.  Perhaps the meaning is not hidden in this tune, but any Beatles Estate Planning song list would be incomplete without some mention of it.

  • “Nowhere Man” – Intestacy.  John and Paul wrote this emotional parable about what happens if one does not prepare a will or estate plan.  By opening with “He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody”, the song captures our deep concerns, contempt and cynicism towards the intestacy process quickly, and never lets go.

  • “Strawberry Fields Forever” – Dead Hand Control.  This song presents the issue of how much we can control real property from beyond the grave — can you make your fields “strawberry” forever (or “in perpetuity”) in your will or trust?  John and Paul are obviously against the concept when asserting that “nothing is real” and that there is “nothing to get hung about”, as they ultimately seem to believe that land interests should be reserved for the living.

  • “Octopus’s Garden” – Pet Trusts.  When Ringo sings that he’d “like to be under the sea in an octopus’s garden in the shade”, he is most assuredly taking the octopus’s perspective.  Providing funds in trust for the benefit of your pet to a subsequent caregiver is a common way to care for your pet after your passing.  Note how the song beautifully illustrates the universal message that the disposition of your estate can even include beloved eight-legged cephalopods.

  • “Eight Days a Week” – Patent Ambiguity.  A patent ambiguity is a mistake in a will that is obvious on its face.  Here, the Beatles have helpfully illustrated this concept, as we all know that there are really only seven days in a week.  Courts are now beginning to allow outside evidence to correct these kinds of errors.

  • “Revolution” – Codicils.  A source of one of the most misheard lyrics in history.  If you listen closely, you will hear the true words “you say you want a revolution, well you know, we all want to change our wills” (Insert knee slap here).

Thank you for joining me on this fascinating trip down memory lane (or “Penny Lane”, as it were).

 The Beatles: Cryptic Estate Planning Lyrics?


Scott R. Zucker, Esq. is the owner of The Zucker Law Firm PLLC, located just outside the Capital Beltway in Annandale, within five miles of the City of Fairfax, the county seat of beautiful Fairfax County, Virginia. The firm focuses mainly on estate planning services for Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania clientele, and seeks to do so in an affordable and approachable way. People interested in learning more can contact Scott by phone or email.

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6 Responses to The Beatles: Cryptic Estate Planning Lyrics?

  1. September 29, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    I love this post, it took some real creative ingenuity to come up with all of this. Now if you could just get Sir Paul to enroll you as his estate planner :-)

    I submit to you my own feeble attempt –
    Lady Madonna, children at your feet
    Wonder how you manage to make ends meet
    Who find the money when you pay the rent
    Did you think that money was heaven sent

    Well no the money wasn’t heaven sent – it’s quite obvious that Lady Madonna is the beneficiary of a trust – where else would the money come from? Besides she has the title of “Lady” so of course she’s getting trust fund money, how else is she going to pay for all those kids?

    • Scott
      September 30, 2010 at 10:05 am

      Mr. Whittington–

      I see where you are going with this. It is true that many find themselves as an executor or a trustee without truly understanding the responsibilities involved. The Beatles have certainly take these concerns to a personal level by applying the concern to a religious order. Many will leave bequests in trust to charity with the greatest of intentions, but sometimes the smaller of these organizations are perhaps ill-equipped to meet the demands of the Prudent Investor Act and other applicable Uniform Trust and Trustee Acts.

      Thank you so much for pointing out this subtlety and for your “whiticisms”! You truly have, for better or for worse, given me a number of ideas for future posts.

      Take care,

  2. JMill
    October 1, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Absolutely love it!! Knowing you as I do, I smell a “Simpsons”-related analysis along these lines someday soon. After all, Homer lives a very high-risk lifestyle (dangerous activities, terrible eating habits, etc.); and if he were to pass away, it would be sad to know that he did not do what was necessary to provide for Bart, Girl Bart, and The Other One.

    Keep the posts flowing.

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