How Should Inheritance Law Remediate Inequality?

35 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2021

See all articles by Felix Chang

Felix Chang

University of Cincinnati College of Law; Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law

Date Written: April 2, 2021


This Essay argues that trusts and estates (“T&E”) should prioritize intergenerational economic mobility—the ability of children to move beyond the economic station of their parents—above all other goals. The field’s traditional emphasis on testamentary freedom fosters the stickiness of inequality. For wealthy settlors, dynasty trusts sequester assets from the nation’s system of taxation and stream of commerce. For low-income decedents, intestacy splinters property rights and inhibits their transfer, especially to nontraditional heirs.

Holistically, this Essay argues that T&E should promote mean regression of the wealth distribution curve over time. This can be accomplished by loosening spending in ultrawealthy households and spurring savings and investment in low-income households.

T&E scholars are tackling inequality with greater urgency than ever before; yet basic questions remain. The Essay contributes to these conversations by articulating a comprehensive framework for progressive inheritance law that redresses long-term inequality.

Keywords: trusts and estates, intergenerational economic mobility, wealth distribution, inequality, progressive inheritance law

JEL Classification: K39

Suggested Citation

Chang, Felix, How Should Inheritance Law Remediate Inequality? (April 2, 2021). Washington Law Review, Vol. 97, 2022, Available at SSRN:

Felix Chang (Contact Author)

University of Cincinnati College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210040
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0040
United States


Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law ( email )

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