The Jolly Testator


Written by Lord Neaves centuries ago, but true to this day:

Ye lawyers who live upon litigants’ fees,
And who need a good many to live at your ease,
Grave or gay, wise or witty, whate’er your degree,
Plain stuff or Queen’s Counsel, take counsel of me:
When a festive occasion your spirit unbends,
You should never forget the profession’s best friends;
So we’ll send round the wine, and a light bumper fill
To the jolly testator who makes his own will.

He premises his wish and his purpose to save
All dispute among friends when he’s laid in the grave;
Then he straightway proceeds more disputes to create
Than a long summer’s day would give time to relate.
He writes and erases, he blunders and blots,
He produces such puzzles and Gordian knots,
That a lawyer, intending to frame the thing ill,
Couldn’t match the testator who makes his own will.

Testators are good, but a feeling more tender
Springs up when I think of the feminine gender!
The testatrix for me, who, like Telemaque’s mother,
Unweaves at one time what she wove at another;
She bequeaths, she repeats, she recalls a donation,
And ends by revoking her own revocation;
Still scribbling or scratching some new codicil,
Oh! success to the woman who makes her own will.

‘Tisn’t easy to say, ‘mid her varying vapors,
What scraps should be deemed testamentary papers.
‘Tisn’t easy from these her intention to find,
When perhaps she herself never knew her own mind.
Every step that we take, there arises fresh trouble:
Is the legacy lapsed? Is it single or double?
No customer brings so much grist to the mill
As the wealthy old woman who makes her own will.

The law decides questions of meum and tuum,
By kindly consenting to make the thing suum;
The Aesopian fable instructively tells
What becomes of the oysters, and who gets the shells;
The legatees starve, but the lawyers are fed;
The Seniors have riches, the Juniors have bread;
The available surplus of course will be nil,
From the worthy testators who make their own will.

You had better pay toll when you take to the road,
Than attempt by a by-way to reach your abode;
You had better employ a conveyancer’s hand
Than encounter the risk that your will shouldn’t stand.
From the broad beaten track when the traveler strays,
He may land in a bog or be lost in a maze;
And the law, when defied, will avenge itself still
On the man and the woman who make their own will.

Thanks to attorney Knox Proctor for bringing this to my attention.

Address: 1414 Raleigh Rd Ste 203, Chapel Hill NC 27517
Phone: 919.636.0950 | Toll Free: 800.201.0413 | Fax: 919.493.6355 |