How Should Inheritance Law Remediate Inequality?
35 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2021
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: Suggested Citation