Nov 22, 2014

American Estates are Gaining Momentum: Will Yours Keep Pace?

Freedom of speech; freedom of religion; freedom to peaceably assemble. The American Bill of Rights was created as a framework for American Society. But the real gem created by the Founding Fathers—the one that truly separated American society from British society—isn’t part of the Social Studies curriculum of any American public school. The hidden gem? Determining how wealth would be passed from one generation to the next.

Despite the best efforts of Thomas Jefferson & Company, though, demographics are about to create the societal imbalance that Jefferson feared back in 1776.

First, a little background: Until the late 19th century, the British laws of primogeniture and entailment limited the passing of estates and titles to a specific line of heir, with the elder son or closest male heir getting most of the bounty. In that way, wealth could be preserved from generation to generation within the same family. The newly formed United States government left estates open to taxation, though, and most of the new U.S. states rejected the concept of entailment altogether. When there was no will involved, states decreed that a decedent’s assets were to be divided equally among his children or closest heirs. North Carolina justified its 1784 inheritance statute by declaring that keeping large estates together for succeeding generations served “only to raise the wealth and importance of particular families and individuals, giving them an unequal and undue influence in a republic.” Read More >>>

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