My son’s teacher recently went to a Robert Plant concert, but shared with me that some of her colleagues had never heard of him, Led Zeppelin, or “”! To my uninformed brethren, “Stairway to Heaven” was written by Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page. It was released in 1971, and has merely become the most requested single in the history of American radio. “Led Zeppelin” is the name of a rock quartet that was quite popular some time ago.
Ignoring the irony of my outrage (given my parents’ similar indignation many years ago when I didn’t know who Henny Youngman was) I decided to pull out my old … er … my digital copy of Led Zeppelin IV, aka “Zoso”, aka “Untitled”, aka “The Zepp album with ‘Stairway’”. As “Stairway” is a song with many ambiguous lyrics and because it had been awhile, I thought that with the benefit of experience and hopefully more wisdom and finesse, I would be able to glean more meaning from the song.
It’s funny how clarity can come from the strangest of places. What I found was shocking – I finally uncovered the secrets of “Stairway”. How? Simply envision “Stairway to Heaven” as a metaphor for “A Completed Estate Plan” and you are halfway home.
So by absolutely no demand from anyone, and with tongue firmly in cheek, let’s go through the lyrics to show you what is really being discussed:
“There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.” – In other words, a woman in her “golden” years wants to do her estate plan.
“When she gets there she knows if the stores are all closed, with a word she can get what she came for and she’s buying a stairway to heaven” – Page and Plant seem to be leaning toward a living trust as opposed to a will here. The “stores are all closed” refers to the frustrating situation where many banks, hospitals, doctors, etc. refuse to accept an unfamiliar power of attorney as a basis for a person to make decisions for someone incapacitated. These entities are more willing to follow an already existing trust. Therefore, the word “trust” will enable her representative to get her what she “came for”.
“There’s a sign on the wall, but she wants to be sure, cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.” – This implores the listener to have their documents drafted carefully, because words having two or more meanings can certainly wreak havoc during any probate or administration proceedings.
“In a tree by the brook, there’s a songbird who sings, sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.” – Good point! Even some bird sitting near a brook knows that your deepest wishes need to be clearly stated in your estate documents.
“Ooh, it makes me wonder. Ooh, it makes me wonder. ” – Me too, Jimmy and Robert. Me too.
“There’s a feeling I get, when I look to the west and my spirit is crying for leaving. ” – This is an example of how even an unusual personal issue can be included in your estate documents. In this case, a clause might state “I request during my incapacity that my personal or hospital bed not be pointed in a westerly direction, as this tends to have a detrimental effect on me.”
“In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees, and the voices of those who stand looking.” – A somewhat more typical request in a will or trust. In other words, place me in a private room at a higher-quality nursing facility, rather than a lesser quality one that allows smoking, has windows enabling anyone to see me, and thin walls where I can hear them.
“It makes me wonder, it really makes me wonder.” – We touched upon this earlier.
“And it’s whispered that soon, if we all call the tune, then the piper will lead us to reason.” – A beautiful way to explain that all adults need an estate plan. It’s emotional and scary to get started, but there are plenty of “roads” (see below) to help you get through your estate plan relatively painlessly.
“And a new day will dawn, for those who stand long and the forests will echo with laughter. ” – Right! It’s one less thing to worry about.
“If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now it’s just a spring clean for the May queen. ” – Yeah, I have no idea about this line. I’ve got nothing.
“Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.” – This can mean one of three things: 1) You can either get a will or not; 2) You can either have a will-based plan or a trust-based plan; or 3) You can draft yourself or find a lawyer to help. It also touches upon ancient Eastern philosophy warning us against false dichotomy. Whichever “road” you choose, don’t fret, if you think you made a mistake, you “still have time to change” it. Isn’t it nice how poetry or music can be interpreted in multiple ways?
“And it makes me wonder.” – Sure, it’s never easy to make these tough decisions.
“Your head is humming and it won’t go in case you don’t know, the piper’s calling you to join him. ” – Piper. Pipe. A tube used to conduct liquid, gas, or fine solid. Movement. Direction. Planning!
“Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow? And did you know your stairway lies on the whispering wind?” – The song was written in 1970, so Page and Plant were likely anticipating the “winds of change” in U.S. estate and gift law. They were right – the estate and gift tax systems were unified in 1976.
“And as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our soul, there walks a lady we all know, who shines white light and wants to show, how everything still turns to gold. And if you listen very hard, the truth will come to you at last, when all are one and one is all, to be a rock and not to roll.” – Our lady friend, with a universal “shadow”, i.e. influence, over any individual’s beliefs, envisions a magnificent world where all have an estate plan, which will serve as a “rock” of stability in our lives.
“And she’s buying a stairway to heaven…” – We’ve come full circle now. Note the lack of instrumentation in the last line so that Plant can close his thesis without distraction. Awesome!
Call your local estate planning attorney today (so much for wisdom and finesse)!
Have a great weekend!
- The Beatles: Cryptic Estate Planning Lyrics? (estateplanninginfoblog.com)
- 8 Great Estate Planning Movies of the ’80s and ’90s (estateplanninginfoblog.com)