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June 27, 2013


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What about "Wills, Trusts and Estates meets marital status." Singles of all genders, races and classes are far more disadvantaged than are those of a particular gender, class or race.

Alfred Brophy

Marital status is an important part of this discussion, obviously. Single testators often have patterns of distribution that are rather different from married/widowed people. Just to be clear, the discussion will not just be about disadvantage. To take one example, part of what people will talk about, I'd expect, is about estate planning for non-traditional families.

Whether single people are disadvantaged is less clear to me. Are you thinking single people are disadvantaged as testators? How so? Or are you thinking that single people are disadvantaged as beneficiaries? You think they receive small distributions than if they are part of a family? That's surely true in some cases.

In the work I've done on 19th century wills, devises to single women are all over the map -- sometimes they're given additional property in trust to provide for their care until they marry. At other times devises provide only an estate for "widowhood" -- that is, until a widow remarries or dies.

This raises some really interesting issues about how often testators have equal vs. favored distributions of property to issue. I'm really interested in how those patterns change over time and why. There's a lot of work that's been done on this in the 18th century British speaking Americas. Less on the 19th century.

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