24th Apr 2011

Last year, a lawyers group, Wealth Counsel, conducted a survey of estate planning lawyers from all over the US.  I participated in the survey.

63% said they opposed repealing the estate tax.  32% said they supported taxing “beneficiaries who did not earn their wealth”, and argued that not taxing the family inheritance “could create generations of individuals who stand idly by without being productive members of society”. (A Look Inside The Estate Planning Industry:  Key Findings From the 4th Annual Industry Trends Survey)

While there are some reasonable arguments in support of the estate tax, the arguments above are just plain stupid.  

What they are saying is that they think your family shouldn’t get your inheritance because your family didn’t earn it.  

Well…. the government didn’t earn it either; so why should it go to the government? 

 Are they looking out for their clients?   It doesn’t appear so.

In my experience, all of my clients, poor or wealthy, want to give their estate to their families.  

If that natural and universal objective is repugnant to 2/3 of the estate planning attorneys out there (assuming the survey is accurate), how can they faithfully go about advising their clients on tax avoidance in estate planning?

I have no problem helping my clients protect their family through their estate plan.  

Who gets to decide whether the family deserves the client’s inheritance?   It’s not for me as the lawyer to decide that; that’s the client’s decision.

Being a lawyer is about jealously advocating for your client’s legal rights, not about inserting your political views onto your client’s motives.

Finally, many of my clients who have businesses commonly have the family working in the business itself.  Mom and Dad have often retired, and its the kids and grandchildren who are running the business.  Sometimes, making it more successful than their parents.  Wouldn’t they deserve to get the family business in the estate? 

The bottom line is that estate planning attorneys should be advocates for their clients, not for the government, or others.   It is the clients goals and objectives that should be front and center in the representation of the client.

For more information about estate planning, including estate taxes, please visit my website at:


  Dwight Edward Tompkins
Estate Planning Attorney

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice from a qualified estate planning attorney in your jurisdiction.

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