Now that I'm back from Oklahoma City University's conference, "trusts and estates meets gender, race, and class," I want to talk a little bit about it. Carla Spivack organized it to get a bunch of us who've been working in what I think of as "progressive trusts and estates" together. The core idea with this group -- I think -- is that we want to do things differently. Differently in terms of pedagogy and scholarship. The pedagogy discussion was terrific -- and pretty well advanced. Unsurprisingly trusts and estates faculty have a lot of ideas for integrating exercises like client interviewing and drafting into the basic course in ways that seem both useful and doable.
And on the scholarship side there were some terrific papers as well. Bridget Crawford and Tony Infanti -- who have helped organize the critical tax scholars -- framed the day's discussion with a look at recent literature in trusts and estates and some of the open questions. Casey Ross-Petherick gave a really surprising look at the American Indian Probate Reform Act (a statute about which I knew nothing). Stephen Clowney talked about his work on monuments. Friend of the blog Kent Schenkel spoke about a really intriguing question -- how the repeal of fee tail fits (or doesn't) with Americans' love of property that was so apparent around the time of the Revolution. I hope to speculate some more on this when he posts his paper to ssrn. My co-author Deborah Gordon spoke about expressions of inheritance and devise outside of the context of wills (what she calls letters non-testamentary). This builds on her previous work on language regarding death. And there was a lot of talk about wealth inequality and how that's grown over time.
I rolled out the first version of my paper on trusts for slavery and freedom -- that is, the use of trusts to keep slaves out of the hands of creditors, to manage them, and even sometimes to provide them with quasi-freedom. There's no telling how legal technology is going to be used. (Here's an audio file of my talk if you're interested. I'm looking forward to working this up in substantially greater detail and to rolling out a lot more data on both the appellate cases regarding slaves in trust and the view from the county probate offices, too.)
Over the next few weeks I hope to talk in depth about a bunch of the papers.