Famous Last Wills and Testaments of American Presidents

Some famous and bizarre last wills and testaments of American Presidents including George Washington and John F. Kennedy.

George Washington American President Died: 1799

Last Will: The $600,000 estate was given to his wife, Martha. He delayed the freedom of his slaves until after her death, stating, "To emancipate them during her life, would, tho earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties on account of their intermixture by marriages with the dower negroes, as to excite the most painful sensations, if not disagreeable consequences from the latter, while both descriptions are in the occupancy of the same proprietor." To his mulatto slave, William Lee, he gave immediate freedom. Lee became famous after Washington's death, and was "buried" 5 times--in North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, and twice in New York. Each interment was faithfully recorded as the demise of the original William.

Abraham Lincoln

American President

Died: 1865

Last Will: Lincoln left no will, the only U.S. President to die intestate, a circumstance precipitated by his assassination. His net worth of $110,295 was awarded to his wife and 2 sons. The U.S. Congress, with strict observance of accounting rules, paid his salary only to the day of death.

Jefferson Davis

President of the Southern Confederacy

Died: 1889

Last Will: Left 3 plantations. One to his wife, one each to Mary Ellis and Mary Dorsey.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

American President

Died: 1945

Last Will: Left approximately $1.1 million, held in joint trust by his son, James, Basil O'Connor, and Henry Hackett, for the benefit of his widow and their children. From the income of the trust, Mrs. Roosevelt was to pay a sum up to $1,000 annually for the living expenses of Marguerite (Missy) Le Hand, Roosevelt's personal secretary since his years as governor of New York.

John F. Kennedy

American President

Died: 1963

Last Will: To save huge death and inheritance taxes, Kennedy placed his $10 million estate in trusts. After minor bequests, including the sum of $25,000 and household effects to his wife, Jacqueline, he divided the remainder into 2 equal shares as trust funds for Jacqueline and the 2 children, John and Caroline. The trustees were also empowered to pay to Jacqueline, out of the trust principal, whatever sums were necessary to "enable her to maintain the standard of living to which she is accustomed," up to 10% annually of the trust's total principal.

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