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Shakespeare's use of trusts in his Will

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Today, 23rd April, is celebrated for being the birth of the famous bard, William Shakespeare. Whilst Shakespeare is most known for his plays and sonnets, his wealth was accrued from shrewd business decisions such as investing in grain, brokering loans and even marriages. That astute thinking is reflected in the way Shakespeare used trusts in his will.

Of his father’s 8 children, Shakespeare was the only one to receive an education after the family’s funds dwindled. He therefore understood how wealth built up through years of hard work can be taken away quickly and he wished to ensure his assets were preserved for his family.

The question for Shakespeare was how to benefit his daughters in an age where they had no financial rights independent of their husbands. This was particularly concerning for Shakespeare as the husband of his youngest daughter had a chequered history having been found guilty of forgery, taking bribes, had impregnated another woman and even been briefly excommunicated.

Shakespeare's answer to this problem was to make a will leaving his assets on trust so that his daughters could still use and benefit from their inheritance, but those assets were kept out of reach from unwholesome third parties. Shakespeare also had particular wishes about who should receive the trust assets after the death of his daughters.

Over 450 years later trusts are still commonly used in wills to: -

  • ring fence assets against care fees;
  • mitigate Inheritance Tax;
  • provide for beneficiaries until they reach a certain age;
  • ensure assets pass to your intended beneficiaries, (i.e., if you have children from a previous relationship or if your partner were to form a relationship with someone else after you die);
  • prevent a beneficiary’s inheritance being taken into account in divorce proceedings;
  • ensure a beneficiary does not lose their benefits upon receiving their inheritance;
  • to hold assets for a beneficiary who is not good with money.

If you would like to like to receive advice on how to ensure your assets will be passed to your loved ones in an appropriate and tax efficient way, get in touch with our teams in WinchesterAlresfordSunningdale or London by giving your local branch a call or by filling in our online enquiry form.

Alternatively you can contact us by either telephone 01962 841041 or email