Hamilton and the Probate Court

- August 27, 2018

Alexander Hamilton, Colonel in the Revolutionary War, General in the United States Army, Secretary of the Treasury, founder of The New York Post, Immigrant, Ideologue, abolitionist and capitalist, is also etched into history as one of America’s first cautionary examples of a loser in probate court.

Prior to his birth, when Alexander’s mother Rachel Faucett met her husband Johan Levine, she was the recent beneficiary of a considerable inheritance from her father. Rachel’s mother Mary initiated a separation from Rachel’s father in 1740 and renounced all rights, leaving Rachel as the sole heiress to his estate. She would receive the estate in 1745, and in the same year married Mr. Levine.

Rachel and Mr. Levine had a tumultuous relationship: he accused her of infidelity and she accused him of domestic violence and spending her inheritance. In a sign of the times, Alexander lost any inheritance he might have obtained when Rachel left her husband without legally divorcing him.

Rachel then met James Hamilton and they had two children: Alexander, born about 1755 and his brother James Jr. James Hamilton left them to fend for themselves when Alexander was young. Rachel would pass a few years later from a fever both she and Alexander contracted when Alexander was thirteen.

The probate court had no sympathy for the impoverished thirteen-year-old boy because he was not considered a legitimate son or heir. Rachel’s son with Mr. Levine would claim and win the estate for himself, leaving Hamilton and his brother James Jr. with nothing.

This cautionary tale would not be applicable in an Arizona Probate Court today. The laws of intestacy, set forth in A.R.S. § 14-2103, are applicable when no will or trust has been created and provide for those children born to their mother. Still, although legitimacy is no longer an issue, a person’s wishes often can be.

A person’s estate passes to whoever they choose, the way it passes depends on how they choose to do so. Probate Court doesn’t have to be involved in every situation, and an Estate Planning Attorney can show you how to pass your estate efficiently, accurately, and without challenge. If you’d like more information on what you need to do to ensure a smooth transition, call us at (480) 994-5000 or (928) 458-7402.



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