Fault-tolerant distributed algorithms are central for building reliable spatially distributed systems. Unfortunately, the lack of a canonical precise framework for fault-tolerant algorithms is an obstacle for both verification and deployment. In this paper, we introduce a new domain-specific framework to capture the behavior of fault-tolerant distributed algorithms in an adequate and precise way. At the center of our framework is a parameterized system model where control flow automata are used for process specification. To account for the specific features and properties of fault-tolerant distributed algorithms for message-passing systems, our control flow automata are extended to model threshold guards as well as the inherent non-determinism stemming from asynchronous communication, interleavings of steps, and faulty processes. We demonstrate the adequacy of our framework in a representative case study where we formalize a family of well-known fault-tolerant broadcasting algorithms under a variety of failure assumptions. Our case study is supported by model checking experiments with safety and liveness specifications for a fixed number of processes. In the experiments, we systematically varied the assumptions on both the resilience condition and the failure model. In all cases, our experiments coincided with the theoretical results predicted in the distributed algorithms literature. This is giving clear evidence for the adequacy of our model. In a companion paper, we are addressing the new model checking techniques necessary for parametric verification of the distributed algorithms captured in our framework.