Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Article: The Law of High-Wealth Exceptionalism

Allison Anna Tait recently published an article entitled, The Law of High-Wealth Exceptionalism , Alabama Law Review (2020). Provided below is the abstract to the Article. 

No family is an island.But some families would like to be--at least when it comes to wealth preservation and they depend on what this Article calls the law of high-wealth exceptionalism to facilitate their success. The law of high-wealth exceptionalism has been forged over the years from the twinned scripts of wealth management and family wealth law, both of which constitute high-wealth families as sovereign entities capable of self-regulation and deserving of exemption from the rules that govern ordinary wealth families. Consequently, high-wealth families take advantage of complicated estate planning techniques and highly favorable wealth rules in order to build walls around their family fortunes and construct bespoke governance systems. Hiding in plain sight, the law of high-wealth exceptionalism protects, privileges, and enables high-wealth families in their own particular form of organizational sovereignty. The fact that high-wealth families operate according to their own rules might seem totally unconnected to the political lives and financial health of original wealth families. However, high-wealth exceptionalism intensifies old harms and creates new ones within the larger policy. To begin, the law of high-wealth exceptionalism increases systemic risk in financial Markets, shifts tax burdens from high-wealth to lower wealth families, and widens the wealth gap. Compounding these problems, high-wealth family exceptionalism facilitates the growth of plutarchic and patrimonial system of government in which power is based on family wealth and privilege flows in a circuit between a small number of already exceptionally resourced families. Understanding how the lax of high-wealth exceptionalism functions is, consequently, an important step in identifying hidden levers of wealth inequality, and addressing the resulting democratic deficit.


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