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United States Presidents and their Diverse Estates and Wills

It’s always interesting to see what famous people have done for their estate plans. The first three Presidents of the United States died with very diverse estates and wills.

George Washington had a blended family. He married Martha who was a widow with two children. George and Martha never had any children of their own but George was close to his nephews and adopted Martha’s children. George wrote his will himself, providing for Martha, his children, grandchildren, and slaves. He apparently had about 300 slaves. He left the majority of his estate to Martha in a life estate which means she had the benefit of the assets until her death. He provided for his nephews and made many bequests to his family and Martha’s. He also wrote in his will that he wanted to free all of his slaves upon the death of both he and Martha. Martha apparently freed some of them after George died but when Martha followed him in death, the executors did not free the remaining slaves.

John Adams, the second President of the United States, had a minimal estate, estimated to be about $100,000. Adams struggled to maintain the life style of a president with the meager salary a president had in those days. He and his wife Abigail bought some property in Massachusetts and accumulated a large library. Abigail died first and when John died, he left his residence, land, and library to his son, John Quincy Adams, with the condition that he provide for his brother Thomas an amount of money equal to half of the value of the library. The rest of the estate went to his other two sons, his grandchildren, and a niece of Abigail.

Thomas Jefferson had a fair amount of money during his life but always lived beyond his means. He spent much of it on building Monticello, buying building materials from Italy and France. He was a widower so he left some real estate to a grandson, Thomas Eppes. He had many debts which apparently exceeded his assets. Monticello was sold, some of his slaves were sold, and still many bequests he had made in his will, could not be given because of insufficient assets. He did free five slaves but not Sally Hemming, said to be the mother of several children with Jefferson. Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Randolph purchased Sally Hemming and set her free.

At least the first three presidents executed wills. Many subsequent presidents and other notable Americans failed to create an estate plan at all. For assistance in creating an estate plan for you and your family, call us at Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation to set up a complimentary consultation.

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