Trusts and Estates: Implementing Freedom of Disposition

28 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2013 Last revised: 17 Jun 2018

Date Written: March 20, 2014


The Trusts and Estates course is about the law of gratuitous transfers at death, that is, the law of succession. Lately such courses have come to cover both probate succession by will and intestacy, and non-probate succession by inter vivos trust, pay-on-death contract, and other such will substitutes. The organizing principle of the American law of succession, both probate and non-probate, is freedom of disposition. My suggestion in this essay, which I have implemented in my Trusts and Estates class and in the casebook for which I am the surviving co-author, is that the Trusts and Estates course can likewise be organized around this principle. The Trusts and Estates course is perhaps best conceptualized as a survey of the law and policy of implementing freedom of disposition. (This essay was prepared for the Teaching Trusts and Estates special issue of the St. Louis University Law Journal.)

Keywords: trusts, estates, freedom of disposition, probate, non-probate, will substitutes, intestacy, formalities, will contests, construction, fiduciary administration, spendthrift trusts, charitable trusts, future interests, powers of appointment, perpetuities, estate tax

JEL Classification: K11, K34

Suggested Citation

Sitkoff, Robert H., Trusts and Estates: Implementing Freedom of Disposition (March 20, 2014). 58 St. Louis U. L. J. 643 (2014). , Harvard Public Law Working Paper , Available at SSRN:

Robert H. Sitkoff (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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