Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, June 2, 2017

Prof. Edward Halbach, Jr., a Trusts & Estates legend, dies

HalbachIt is with a heavy heart that I post about the passing of Prof. Edward Halbach, Jr., a genuine legend in the trusts and estates field.

Here is an excerpt from the announcement distributed by Berkeley Law's Interim Dean Melissa Murray:

Ed came to UC Berkeley law school as a visiting Associate Professor in 1959, was named full professor in 1962, and served as Dean from 1966-1975. 

Born in Clinton, Iowa in 1931, Ed received his BA and JD from the University of Iowa, his LLM from Harvard, and later an honorary LL.D. from the University of Redlands.  A prolific scholar of tax and trusts and estates, Ed changed American law with his scholarship.  His volume on the Prudent Investor served as a model for statutes adopted throughout the U.S.  With the ALI he has worked on the Restatements, and with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform Law he has helped write laws that were adopted across the United States. He started the California Indian Legal Services, which eventually became the Native American Rights Foundation. As a teacher, he was known for his clarity and humor.  

Among his many accomplishments, Ed held the second Chair ever awarded by the American Law Institute, won the Treat Award for Excellence from Probate Judges and the Tweed Award from ALI/ABA, and received the University Citation for extraordinary service to Berkeley.  In 2010 he was recognized with Berkeley Law’s Faculty Lifetime Achievement Award.  On that occasion, he was described as a distinguished scholar, gifted teacher, influential lawyer, and – not least by any means – "a man of good will and charm.” 

Named Dean of the law school in 1966 at the age of 34, Ed was not only the youngest law school dean in America, he also took the helm at a calamitous time in the United States and on campus. Facing intense student protests over the Vietnam War and other issues of the day, Ed relied on his bottomless store of goodwill and amazing calm to lead the law school at this incredibly difficult time. Bob Berring, who graduated in 1974, credits Ed with keeping the school together during these calamitous times  “Even in the most tumultuous days, Dean Halbach’s basic decency and frankness prevailed.  He will always be my ideal of a dean who was a gifted scholar, deft administrator and kind human being.”  He combined a self-deprecating sense of humor with extraordinary analytical abilities.  As importantly, he treated the faculty and the students like family.  According to Bob, “Ed and his wife Jan welcomed even the bearded scruffies of the class of  ’74 into their home.  He made us all feel like we were part of something bigger.” 

Ed is survived by his wife Jan, their five children, and their many grandchildren.


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The legal profession and the academy have lost a giant. He will be remembered and always will have an impact.

Posted by: Sheldon Kurtz | Jun 3, 2017 10:41:30 AM

Prof. Halbach became interested in Trusts & Estates in law school while he took courses from John O’Byrne who encouraged one of his most enthusiastic students to pursue the LL.M. degree so that he could go into teaching. It is interesting that Prof. Halbach was appointed to his first teaching position immediately upon finishing his LL.M., something highly unusual at the time without practicing or completing a judicial clerkship. Prof. Halbach was asked by Phillip Heckerling to speak at the very first University of Miami Institute on Estate Planning and soon became a fixture for the next 20 years. What is not well-know is that Prof. Halbach and Ed Schlessinger were the individuals who suggested to Phil that he start the LL.M. in Estate Planning because none of the LL.M. programs at the time provided the opportunity to specialize in estate planning. Prof. Halbach taught Future Interests in the Miami LL.M. Estate Planning program from its inception and for the next two decades, even after he retired from full-time teaching. After practicing in the field, many of his former students in the Miami LL.M. program commented that his coverage of Future Interests provided them with the foundational principles that allowed them to fully understand their transfer tax impact and become better drafters of their trust agreements.

Posted by: Jerry Hesch | Jun 3, 2017 2:06:40 PM

It is with regret that I learn of Professor Halbach's passing! Why do the "good guys" pass on and leave us with these lawbreakers? Why?, I say, Why?

Posted by: Kaye Washington, Class of '81 | Jun 15, 2017 11:34:27 AM

I met Ed Halbach in the late seventies, after--as I think I heard at the time--he had been forced out as dean by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. He made quite an impression, a tall, handsome, witty man with an easy confidence. Forty-some years later, I still remember him.

Posted by: David Lee Miller | Sep 9, 2021 3:35:40 PM

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