Now that I'm back from Oklahoma City University's conference, "trusts and estates meets gender, race, and class," I wanted to talk a little bit about it. Carla Spivack organized it to get a bunch of us who've been working in what one might call 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 so 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. Their paper on a research agenda in critical trusts and estates is here. 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. Stuart Gold gave a terrific paper on emancipation of slaves via will in New Jersey in the early national period. Deborah Gordon spoke about expressions of inheritance and devise outside of the context of wills (what she calls letters non-testamentary) and Karen Sneddon spoke about the gendered nature of language in wills. 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 by Palma Strand, and Naomi Cahn, as well as serious critique of doctrine by Phyllis Smith, Danaya Wright, Browne Lewis, Alan Oxford, and Anne Marie Rhodes. Shelly Kreiczer-Levy spoke about a wide-ranging project on inheritance of residences and why we should have rules that promote the next generation staying in their ancestor's home. Really exciting all around. Bill LaPiana wrapped this all together with terrific commentary.
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 the appellate cases regarding slaves in trust -- Thomas Ruffin had a lot to say about this -- 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.