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Presidential Estate Planning: Lincoln Goes Back to Probate

Abraham Lincoln probably isn't to blame for the probate drama currently surrounding letters he once wrote to his press secretary Gideon Welles. Welles, himself, would have been hard-pressed to foresee the current debate over the letters.

Rather it was the passing of Ruth Trost Welles more than 50 years ago that set in motion the current round of questions surrounding the Lincoln letters. Ruth was the wife of Gideon's grandson Thomas, who passed away before she did and, apparently, left a trunk full of correspondence and other artifacts from the Lincoln administration.

When they were discovered more than a year ago, they sparked crossfire of accusations between various offshoots of the Welles family. Last week, the judge overseeing the case ruled that Ruth's estate had never been adequately inventoried.

Still, it's going to be hard to sift through the different stories and claims clouding the matter.

When most people sit down to plan their estate, they're not usually thinking 100years into the future, but why not? Especially if you are the head of a family-owned business or the owner of valuable assets, why not consider how they will be passed down through the generations?

Estate planning allows us to account for immediate transferences of property, but it can also provide the opportunity to plan many generations into the future. For some, this won't make sense, but for others, it may be very valuable indeed.

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