Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Registration for the American Bar Association's Spring Real Property, Probate, and Trust Symposia is now open. This symposia will be held April 27-30, 2005 in Washington, DC.
The program is brimming with exciting and interesting topics! Sure wish I could attend but it is right during final exams!
Professor Adam J. Hirsch of Florida State University has recently published a fascinating article entitled Default Rules in Inheritance Law: A Problem in Search of its Context. Here is Prof. Hirsch's abstract:
"Jurisprudence distinguishes between mandatory rules (which parties are obliged to follow, and hence which apply in all cases) and default rules (which parties are free to override, and hence which apply only in the event that parties fail to opt out of them). This article develops a theoretical framework for the construction of default rules within inheritance law. Its foundational claim is that the modern theory of default rules developed within transactional law provides a model broadly, if not perfectly, applicable to inheritance defaults. Transactional default rule theory suggests that by replicating the hypothetical bargain of a majority of parties, lawmakers can minimize transaction costs. If default rules in inheritance law correspond, by analogy, with the probable intent of a majority (or plurality) of benefactors, lawmakers can achieve the same efficiency. The article looks at, and rejects, other suggested approaches to the formulation of inheritance defaults, which have focused on furthering state interests or on fulfilling an expressive function of law. After setting out a basic theory of inheritance defaults, and comparing it to competitors, the article proceeds to address how inheritance defaults should be structured, and how lawmakers should go about discovering benefactors' probable intent. A final section surveys existing inheritance defaults, identifying ones that surely or likely fail to effectuate probable intent, and hence which merit substantive revision."
What Prof. Hirsch's summary doesn't tell you, is that the article contains highly sophisticated mathematical equations to determine inheritance rules. I think he must be related to the fictional math expert (Charlie) portrayed in the new TV series, Numb3rs.
Monday, January 24, 2005
When teaching the cases and statutes addressing how a court determines whether a trust purpose is legal, I find that students enjoy discussing the following provision in a lawyer's will:
All the rest and residue of my property wheresoever situate I give, devise and bequeath unto my Executors and Trustees named below in Trust to convert into money as they deem advisable and invest all the money until the expiration of nine years from my death and then call in and convert it all into money and at the expiration of ten years from my death to give it and its accumulations to the Mother who has since my death given birth in Toronto to the greatest number of children as shown by the Registrations under the Vital Statistics Act. If one of more mothers have equal highest number of registrations under the said Act to divide the said moneys and accumulations equally between them.
The court held that the provision was valid. The trustee then turned over $125,000 to each of the four women who had each given birth to nine children in the ten year period.
Remember the hype back in 2002 by ABC for the reality show, The Will? This show involved a horde of greedy would-be heirs and beneficiaries attempting to convince a wealthy Arizona land developer to include them in his will. Well, ABC never aired the show and sold it to CBS who ran the first installment on January 8, 2005. Because the first episode received such low rankings, it was canceled. So we will never know what happened -- what a shame?
Note that I have not actually watched the show although I have it both on TiVo and DVD. One of my students borrowed the DVD, watched the show, reported on it to my Estate Planning class, and told me that my time was too valuable to waste watching the show. Now, I really must find the time to watch ----
Sunday, January 23, 2005
I am pleased to welcome you to the Wills, Trusts, and Estates Prof Blog which will serve as a central site to locate and explore comprehensive materials to enhance your teaching of courses that address intestate succession, wills, trusts, estate administration, non-probate assets, planning for disability, and other matters pertaining to estate planning. A wide range of materials will be presented: reference, practical, academic, scholarly, pedestrian, historical, current, etc.
Contributions and suggestions will be greatly appreciated! I look forward to hearing from you.