Unintended Consequence in George Washington’s Estate Plan
George Washington was not only a great man, patriot and leader but he was extremely organized and concerned about every aspect of his life. In preparing for his inevitable death, according to Peter R. Henriques in Realistic Visionary, Washington’s greatest anxiety was to leave all of his own affairs and those of others for whom he was responsible “in such a clear and distinct form…that no reproach may attach itself to me, when I have taken my departure for the land of Spirits.”
Washington thought his do-it-yourself estate plan was clear, unequivocal, detailed, and well-conceived.
However, there was a major unintended consequence that perhaps would have been avoided had he had a consultation with someone else. Washington provided for his slaves to be freed upon Martha’s death. The slaves learned of this and Martha started to worry for her life, so she released them soon after her husband died.
Do it right. Plan carefully and consider potential for unintended consequences.