This holiday film season has seen Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" raking in some serious dough, but did our 16th president have a plan for his money after death? The answer is no; Abraham Lincoln died intestate, meaning without a will. These days, any major figure of state is certain to have a proper will, but in Lincoln's day, this was not so common. So what happened?
By noon the day Lincoln died, his oldest son, Robert, had sent a telegram to Justice David Davis of the United States Supreme Court asking him to get at once to Washington in to take change of his father's affairs. Mrs. Lincoln and Robert then penned a letter to the county court in their home state of Illinois to recognize Davis as the administrator of Lincoln's estate.
In the end, there was over $110,000 to be divided from the estate. Justice Davis did not take any payment, and had handled the estate administration entirely on his own, without even hiring an attorney. With record-keeping as common to the time and the devotion to the late president, much is known about his estate. For example, Lincoln's unpaid debts only totaled $38.31 at his death -- far less than most could imagine in today's age, even with inflation.
Bearing in mind that Davis was a Supreme Court Justice, it is no surprise that he was able to manage it on his own. Estate administration is not a simple process, and typically, the person charged with it hires and attorney. An experienced attorney can be an irreplaceable resource for families and individuals in need of estate planning or administration.
Source: Forbes, "Are You Better Prepared Than Abraham Lincoln Was?" Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Dec. 4, 2012