Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Belated-Birthday to President Abraham Lincoln

Abraham LincolnA Happy Belated-Birthday to the great emancipator and the President who led us through one of the greatest crisis that this nation has faced, the American Civil War. As you already know, President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre. What you may not know was that Lincoln died intestate. This is a brief summary of what happened to his estate after his death. 

It was his son Robert who took it upon himself to ask Justice David Davis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, to become the administrator of his father's estate. Upon his arrival, Robert and Mary Todd Lincoln "wrote a letter to the Judge of the Sangamon County Court, in Illinois, and asked that he appoint Davis as the administrator of Lincoln's Estate." In his initial report, Davis valued the estate at about $85,000. This may not seem like much but his estate would be worth millions of dollars by today's standards. At the time (as it is now) it would be strange to pass that much money without a will, especially for an attorney. The estate finally settled two years later and was valued at $110,296.80. This amount was divided into three equal shares among his widow and his two surviving sons. Mary Todd declined an additional cash allowance that she was entitled to as the surviving spouse. As for Justice Davis, he was never compensated for his work and did not seek reimbursement for his administrative duties, which he handled largely on his own. This is strange because it was customary to at least hire an attorney to take of the administrative duties.

See Danielle & Andrew Mayoras, Are You Better Prepared Than Abraham Lincoln Was?, Forbes, Dec. 4, 2012. 


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