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Stanford University Press
Dead Hands: A Social History of Wills, Trusts, and Inheritance Law

Dead Hands: A Social History of Wills, Trusts, and Inheritance Law

by Lawrence Friedman
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The law of succession rests on a single brute fact: you can't take it with you. The stock of wealth that turns over as people die is staggeringly large. In the United States alone, some $41 trillion will pass from the dead to the living in the first half of the 21st century. But the social impact of inheritance is more than a matter of money; it is also a matter of what money buys and brings about.

Law and custom allow people many ways to pass on their property. As Friedman's enlightening social history reveals, a decline in formal rules, the ascendancy of will substitutes over classic wills, social changes like the rise of the family of affection, changing ideas of acceptable heirs, and the potential disappearance of the estate tax all play a large role in the balance of wealth. Dead Hands uncovers the tremendous social and legal importance of this rite of passage, and how it reflects changing values and priorities in American families and society.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804760362
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Publication date: 03/09/2009
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Lawrence M. Friedman is Marion Rice Kirkwood Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. His books include Guarding Life's Dark Secrets: Legal and Social Controls over Reputation, Propriety, and Privacy (Stanford, 2007), Private Lives: Families, Individuals, and the Law (2005), A History of American Law (2005, third edition), American Law in the Twentieth Century (2004), and Legal Culture in the Age of Globalization (Stanford, 2003).

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

1 Introduction 1

2 Distribution after Death 15

3 The Last Will and Testament 58

4 Breaking a Will: Will Contests and Their Social Meaning 82

5 Will Substitutes 100

6 Dynastic and Caretaker Trusts 111

7 Control by the Dead and Its Limits: The Rise and Fall of the Rule against Perpetuities 125

8 Charitable Gifts and Foundations 140

9 Death and Taxes 171

10 Conclusion 179

Notes 185

Index 217

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