The topic of wills may seem like a boring and depressing topic. But if you look into the subject carefully, you realize a person's will reveals a lot about the individual. In fact, a will reflects more than a person's wealth.
George Washington, our nation's first president, had two wills when he was on his deathbed at Mount Vernon, according to "Never Caught,'' a non-fiction book by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. Washington was a slave holder and his wills reveal how he struggled with the moral issue of owning humans as property. As he was dying, Washington chose the will stipulating that older slaves who could no longer work be "comfortably clothed and fed" by Washington's heirs.
The will also stated that younger slaves whose parents were dead were to work as servants until they turned 25. During their servitude, they were to be taught how to read and write and prepare for a "useful occupation."
Many of Washington's slaves could not be freed until the death of Washington's wife, Martha. Dunbar, the author of "Never Caught" theorizes that Washington wanted some of his slaves to care for his wife until she died. Hence, the need to keep them enslaved.
In the end, a will is more than a legal document. It's a reflection of an individual's values. In a practical sense, it's also a roadmap for one's heirs to carry on in a way that is commensurate with the deceased's wishes.