Celebrity Estate Plans (Part 2): Honest Abe Died Intestate
President Abraham Lincoln, who guided the United Stated through its bloodiest war and who is oftentimes remembered for being a shrewd lawyer and valiant leader, did not have a will in place when he was assassinated in 1865. President Lincoln’s estate was valued at approximately $110,000 (worth millions today). Under intestacy law at the time of death, his estate was split between his wife and two surviving children. A close friend of President Lincoln’s, and sitting United States Supreme Court Justice, David Davis, was called upon by President Lincoln’s family to administer the estate. Also unusual, Congress voted to donate one year of President Lincoln’s salary to Mrs. Lincoln, which passed to her tax free because it did not pass through the estate and was characterized as a donation.
Although intestacy laws have changed dramatically since President Lincoln was assassinated, it remains true that a surviving spouse is not always entitled to the entire estate when the decedent does not have a will. Thus, it is important to make your wishes known through executing an estate plan.