Dismantling the Trusts and Estates Canon

26 Pages Posted: 1 May 2019

See all articles by Naomi Cahn

Naomi Cahn

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: 2019


This article steps back and reflects on how new perspectives from gender, race, class, and sexual orientation have challenged existing trusts and estates canonical narratives on a number of different levels, both in terms of deepening trusts and estates but also expanding it—that is, challenging core concepts of the field. Part I celebrates how new perspectives have challenged the core trusts and estates canonical narratives. These new perspectives challenge basic concepts of wealth and do the following: 1) bring in alternative conceptions of wealth and of inheritance; 2) question the biases of inheritance law as they reflect conventional social norms; and 3) contextualize the whole field so that it encompasses elder law, history, sociology, socioeconomics, and other areas. The second Part turns to the structure of wealth and its intergenerational transmission, drawing on sociological and demographic data to show just who is wealthy and how wealth transmission perpetuates inequality, Finally, based on asking what I call “the wealth question,” I suggest future directions that might lead to reexamination of some of the core tenets of trusts and estates: for example, wills may not be appropriate for everyone, and class differences in families show the need to include (or be more deliberate in excluding) alternative families.

Keywords: trusts, estates, wills, domestic relations, property, gender, critical theory

JEL Classification: K36, K11, K34

Suggested Citation

Cahn, Naomi R., Dismantling the Trusts and Estates Canon (2019). Dismantling the Trusts and Estates Canon, 2019 WIS. L. REV. 165 (2019), GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2019-23, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-23, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3379706 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3379706

Naomi R. Cahn (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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