November 9, 2004 - Phil Hodgen

Estate planning as a lost art

The Wall Street Journal’s online edition is having a week of open season–you don’t have to be a subscriber to read it.

With that, I found an article from July about Jack Kent Cooke, the late owner of the Washington Redskins. It notes that Mr. Cooke’s $1.3 billion estate has been a giant mess since he died. There are seven (!) co-executors seeking over $37 million in fees.

The moral of the story is found in the lament about the decline in the teaching of estate planning in law schools.

As a parallel, a trend in the law business that is now visible is that many large law firms are tossing their trust and estates practices overboard. (Sorry. The partners are choosing to leave. I got it wrong.) Estate planning is boring for students. It doesn’t generate big income for the law firms.

But everyone dies. Even people with a lot of money and really badly-crafted estate plans.

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