Family Values, Inheritance Law, and Inheritance Taxation

14 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2008 Last revised: 9 Dec 2013

See all articles by Anne Alstott

Anne Alstott

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: November 12, 2008


This symposium paper, originally presented at the September 19, 2008 NYU Tax Law Review Symposium on inheritance taxation, begins to examine what it might mean for the law to protect a "right to use one's resources to benefit one's family." The paper draws on historical debates over inheritance law to identify and examine three rather different ideals of the family that have recurred in various debates over time.

The analysis shows that, while one can interpret values associated with family life in such a way as to oppose the taxation of inheritance, there are equally plausible interpretations according to which the family can co-exist peaceably with the taxation of inheritance, at least in some form. And this basic point holds whether one conceives of the family in liberal terms, in conventional terms, or in functional terms. But although each vision of the family might co-exist with inheritance taxation, the three ideals do have markedly different implications for the terms of inheritance law and inheritance taxation.

Suggested Citation

Alstott, Anne L., Family Values, Inheritance Law, and Inheritance Taxation (November 12, 2008). 63 Tax L. Rev. 123 (2009), Available at SSRN:

Anne L. Alstott (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States


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