We tell our readers quite often that a will can be one of the most important documents in your estate plan, but sometimes we like to remind our readers that wills are interesting family and historical documents as well.
In an earlier era where “Living Trusts” were seldom used, genealogists will often use an ancestor’s last will and testament to determine important details about family members: names and birthdates of siblings or children, extent of property, last known address, etc. Additionally, these are often the documents in which we make our final wishes known. This is often where our true selves come out; who we liked best and what we valued most.
A last will and testament can be very revealing indeed. In honor of President’s Day we offer these interesting tidbits relating to the wills of the leaders of our nation:
- George Washington was concerned with the future of our young nation to the very end, and gave some of his estate toward establishing the first American Institutions of higher education, an attempt to prevent young Americans from being “sent to foreign Countries for the purpose of Education, often before their minds were formed, or they had imbibed any adequate ideas of the happiness of their own; contracting, too frequently, not only habits of dissipation and extravagance, but principles unfriendly to Republican Government & to the true and genuine liberties of mankind.”
- Interestingly, President Abraham Lincoln left no will—and he was a prominent lawyer who should have known better!
- President Harry S. Truman included careful tax planning in his last will and testament.
- President Warren G. Harding must have had some kind of premonition when he conveniently decided to write his will 6 weeks before his sudden death.
- The will of President Calvin Coolidge was just 23 words long: “Not unmindful of my son John, I give all my estate, both real and personal, to my wife, Grace Coolidge, in fee simple.”
- President John F. Kennedy was a bit poetical in his will, and included this haunting phrase, “being of sound and disposing mind and memory, and mindful of the uncertainty of life…”