Sam Houston is one our state’s most beloved patriarchs. As the inscription on his tomb suggests, he was:
A Brave Soldier. A Fearless Statesman.
A Great Orator—A Pure Patriot.
A Faithful Friend, A Loyal Citizen.
A Devoted Husband and Father.
A Consistent Christian—An Honest Man.
Because of his notoriety, his will, which was written in 1863, has been preserved. A look at it reveals many similarities between it and wills that are created today.
The Travis County Clerk has a scan of Houston’s will and the following transcription on its website:
In the name of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I, Sam Houston of the county of Walker and State of Texas, being fully aware of the uncertainty of life and certainty of death, do ordain and declare this my last Will and Testament.
First: I will that all my just debts be paid out of my personal effects, as I think them sufficient, without disposing of any of the family servants.
Second: I bequeath by entire remaining estate to my beloved wife Margaret, and our children, and I desire that they may remain with her, so long as she may remain in widowhood; and should she at anytime remarry, I desire that my daughters, should be subject to her control so long as their minority lasts;
Third: My will is that my sons should receive solid and useful education, and that no portion of their time may be devoted to the study of abstract sciences. I greatly desire that they may possess a thorough knowledge of the English language with a good knowledge of the Latin language. I also request that they be instructed in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures; and next to these that they be rendered thorough in a knowledge of Geography and History. I wish my sons early taught an utter contempt for novels and light reading. In all that pertains to my sons I wish particular regard paid to their morals as well as character and morals of those whom they may be associated or instructed.
Fourth: I leave to my wife as Executrix and to the following gentlemen as my executors, Thomas Gibbs, Thomas Carothers, J. Carroll Smith and Anthony M. Branch, my much beloved friends, in whom I place my entire confidence, to make such disposition of my personal and real Estate as may seem to them best for the necessities and interests and welfare of my family.
Fifth: To my dearly beloved wife, Margaret, I confide the rearing, education and moral training of our sons and daughters.
Sixth. To my eldest son, Sam Houston, Jr., I bequeath my sword worn in the battle of San Jacinto, never to be drawn only in defense of the Constitution, the laws and Liberties of his Country. It any attempt should ever be made to assail one of these, I wish it to be used in its vindication.
Seventh: It is my will that my Library should be left at the disposition of my dear wife.
Eighth: To my dearly beloved wife, I bequeath my watch and all my jewelry, subject to her disposition.
Ninth: I hereby appoint my dearly beloved wife, Margaret, Testamentory guardian of my children, their Persons and Estates during minority; But should a wise Providence, through its inscrutable decrees see fit to deprive our offspring of both parents and make them orphans indeed, it is hereby delegated to my executors who are hereby confirmed. J. Carroll Smith, Thomas Carothers, Thomas Gibbs and Anthony M. Branch to make such disposition in regard to their welfare, as they may think best calculated to carry out the designs as expressed in this my last will and Testament.
Tenth: And I direct and enjoin my Executrix and Executors, that after the Probate and Registry of this my last will, and return of an Inventory of my Estate, the County, or other Court of Probate, have no further control over my Executors, or Testamentory Guardian, or of my Estate.
Done at Huntsville, the Second day of April 1863
Although there are also some things in the will that would not be found in a modern estate plan, (The part where he directs that his sons be “early taught an utter contempt for novels and light reading” is not something a modern court would uphold, so most attorneys would discourage clients from including language like this in their estate plan.) it is striking how similar Houston’s will is to contemporary estate planning documents. It provides for his wife and minor children, disposes of important personal items, and provides directions for taking care of his outstanding debts, all things which modern estate plans do.
If you are ready to take Houston’s lead and get your affairs in order, on its website in Round Rock to set up a meeting.