Barring fill-in-the-blank type wills, no two are alike. The family situations of our first three presidents, the value of their estates, and their insistence on writing their own wills produced three quite diverse estate plans.
In Washington's case, Martha entered the marriage a widow with two children and a large inheritance from her parents. George and Martha had no children of their own, but George did have several nephews he was fond of, not to mention Martha's children and grandchildren, whom the couple adopted. It was a classic case of yours, mine and ours, including the 300 slaves they owned. Given this blended family composition, the Washingtons could truly have benefitted from a pre-nuptial agreement. But, with one exception, their wills were honored and both branches of the family were treated in proportion to the assets of both parties.
George wrote his will himself, taking 42 pages to do so. Upon his death (several years before Martha's), he made many bequests of money, land (about 10,000 acres), and tangible personal property.
He left the majority of his estate in a life estate for Martha, with the remainder to his nephews, mostly Bushrod Washington. The residue of his estate after many bequests was divided into 23 parts to be divided up among his and Martha's family.
To fulfill his promise to Marquis de Lafayette, Washington wrote a clause in his will to free all of his slaves upon the death of the survivor of himself and Martha. Freeing them earlier would have been problematic for everyone, since some were his, some were dowery slaves of Martha and some were a result of intermarriages of the slaves. Before her death, Martha freed George's slaves because she feared they would hasten her end to gain freedom sooner. Martha's executors did not free the rest of the slaves, a situation that could have been overcome by a pre-nuptial contract.
Washington named his wife along with six other relatives as co-Executors. In spite of all branches of the family being represented in the Executor position, he foresaw disputes. With this in mind, he created a dispute resolution mechanism whereby each disputing party would name an agent to settle the dispute, and those agents would agree on another agent to join them in settling the dispute.
John and Abigail Adams struggled to live within their means for most of their lives. Public service drained their personal resources because the President was not paid enough in salary and expenses to cover all the receptions that the Adams' hosted in Philadelphia or Washington while he was President. However, they did purchase lots adjoining their farm in Quincy, Massachusetts, from estates when available, and John accumulated a considerable library during his envoy duties in France and England.
Preceded in death by his wife, he left his residence, 103 acres of land, his French writing desk, all his public and private papers and his library to his son, John Quincy Adams, under the condition that his son pay his other son, Thomas, an amount equal to half the value of the library. This kept his library intact and still treated his son Thomas fairly.
The residue was given to his two surviving sons, his grandchildren, and Abigail's niece, Louisa Smith. His gross estate was about $100,000.
Thomas Jefferson was a widower most of his life. He spent more than he made, constantly borrowing against future crops, as did many Virginia farmers, but Jefferson spent these advances on rare European books and furniture and building materials from Italy and France for his master work, Monticello.
In the end, he devised some real estate to a grandson, Francis Eppes, directed the payment of his debts, and then directed many bequests and devices, none of which could be fulfilled because his debts at his death (about $100,000) exceeded the worth of his assets. Monticello, in disrepair at the time, was sold at a price much lower than its cost. His slaves were sold, and there were still insufficient funds to fulfill fanciful bequests such as purchasing a gold watch for each grandchild upon turning 21 (16 for the girls).
He did free five slaves in his will, none of them being Sally Hemming, the rumored mother of several offspring. His daughter, Martha Randolph, rescued Sally by purchasing her and setting her free.
Jefferson, author of our Declaration of Independence, could have used help in drafting his will, but even more he could have used a tough accountant most of his life. Or a wife.