Market Pulse: On this Fourth of July weekend
Pondering your own mortality probably isn’t high on the list this holiday weekend. Well, actually it is never high on the list.
On this Fourth of July weekend, let’s look at some of the interesting bequests of our founding fathers.
Benjamin Franklin passed away at age 84 and left his daughter 408 diamonds. Franklin asked that she not have them made into jewelry “and thereby introduce or countenance the expensive, vain, and useless fashion of wearing jewels in this country.”
Franklin left money in trust (valued about $116,000 today) to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia. The money grew for 200 years. When the trust was liquidated, Philadelphia used the money (valued at $2 million) to establish scholarships for local high school students while Boston used its gift (valued at $5 million) to establish the Franklin Institute of Boston trade school.
That shows the power of compounding money over time!
Younger than other founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton wrote his will the day before his death. Certainly, the next day’s duel against Vice President Aaron Burr motivated him to get his affairs in order. Burr, for that matter, turned out to be a terrible investor losing big in land speculation schemes.
He lost his wealth in a western land grab, then married a wealthy widow and proceeded to lose her wealth as well.
Thomas Jefferson lived extravagantly but died almost broke. He did leave a gold-mounted walking staff to James Madison. During his lifetime he accumulated wine and books.
To pay off much of his debt he sold his books for $25,000. Those books were later used to start the Library of Congress.
George Washington didn’t like slavery but, like some other founding fathers, couldn’t bring himself to free his slaves during his lifetime. He did, however, state in his will that his slaves would be freed upon his wife’s death. The surprising thing is he didn’t tell his wife about that part of the will.
Washington gained his wealth through the death of relatives and left his substantial land acquisitions to his relatives.
Most everyone should have a will and establishing a living trust makes it easier for heirs to settle the estate. You will want to work with an attorney on your estate plan and, depending on the size of the estate, you may choose to hire a tax adviser as well.
It is easy to procrastinate but keep in mind that if you don’t have a plan, your state will have one for you. And you might not like it.
David Vomund is an Incline Village-based fee-only money manager. Information is found at http://www.VomundInvestments.com or by calling 775-832-8555. Clients hold the positions mentioned in this article. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial advisor before purchasing any security.