Since we recently celebrated Presidents’ Day, a holiday which was created in part to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, we felt that it was the perfect time to discuss the will he created. To this day, Washington’s will is kept with the Fairfax County Court where it was submitted for probate in January of 1800, a month after the president’s death. His will is detailed and shows a great deal into his character and mentality. It stands as one of the greatest documents written by Washington still in existence.
Washington chose to write his own will without the help of any “professional character.” Estate planning matters and the legal aspects involved were much simpler in these times, and often a well done self-created will was all that was necessary. His will was 29 pages long, and a former will was destroyed by his wife because, on the day of his death, Washington requested she do so. All 29 pages were signed at the bottom except for one.
In the will, Washington gave instructions to free his slaves and to give support to the helpless children and the old and infirm across our nation. Washington distributed his assets with great care and detail, listing his reasons and desires for all of his possessions. He gave various possessions to much of his extended family, as well as to old friends and numerous dependents. Washington used the will not only as a means to distribute his assets, but also as a way to take stock of all that had been done. This was especially true for his various farms and other property.
Mrs. Washington was given more than the usual amount allotted to a widow at those times. However, she passed in 1802, only a couple years after her husband, and the remaining property was sold and distributed among the remainder of the heirs originally listed in Washington’s will.
Washington used his will as a way to recount the legacy he had created and to pass it to those that he loved. In this document he shared a great deal of his insight and his values and portrayed his great love for those around him – both those known to him and those unknown to him but that were in need. Washington showed in this case and many others that he was not only a great leader and president, but an honorable, honest and loving man.
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