Crowding Out: Estate Tax Reform and the Elder Law Policy Agenda

33 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2002

See all articles by Richard L. Kaplan

Richard L. Kaplan

University of Illinois College of Law

Date Written: October 2002


This article examines the estate tax reform provisions of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 in the context of important issues affecting older Americans. Contrary to policymakers' claims that the estate tax is a major concern for elders, this article shows that only a tiny minority of decedents have any estate tax exposure, and that the recently increased exemption will reduce this group even further. In any case, the estate tax is an issue for nonspouse survivors of an elderly decedent, rather than the elders themselves. Even more significantly, by focusing on estate tax reform, policymakers have ignored numerous issues that are truly more important to older Americans, including prescription drugs, long-term care financing, advance health-care directives, Social Security's earnings test, and undiversified pension plans. After examining each of these issues, the article concludes by suggesting that more attention be paid to issues that affect the medical and financial quality of most elders' lives, rather than the pecuniary interests of a few elders' nonspousal survivors.

Suggested Citation

Kaplan, Richard L., Crowding Out: Estate Tax Reform and the Elder Law Policy Agenda (October 2002). Available at SSRN: or

Richard L. Kaplan (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

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Champaign, IL 61820
United States
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