Curriculum Guide · Curriculum
Trusts and Estates
Some students are attracted by the prospect of working with individual clients and counseling them on wealth transfers and related family issues. These students see themselves in a less confrontational, more constructive practice, assisting individuals to achieve goals for themselves, their families, and their charitable beneficiaries. If you fit in this category, you may find that a trusts and estates practice in both large and small firms can offer somewhat greater flexibility in work schedules, as well as the satisfaction of extensive personal contact with clients.
The ideal sequence of electives would be to begin with Decedents' Estates, followed by Estate & Gift Taxation, and concluding with an Estate Planning course or seminar.
Decedents' Estates. Here you will learn the ways in which property passes under a will, outside the will, or by intestacy. Coverage is given to trusts, co-tenancies, life insurance, other contractual arrangements, and powers of appointment. You will also study the restrictions which law and public policy place on the disposition of wealth, such as the right of a spouse to share in a deceased spouse's estate. Finally, the course will deal with the process of administering estates and trusts.
Estate & Gift Taxation. This second course is a study of how various wealth transfers and transactions are subject to the federal gift, estate, and generation-skipping transfer taxes. You will explore policy issues, and be introduced to basic estate planning considerations. Taxation I is a recommended prior course.
Estate Planning Course or Seminar. Here you will apply the principles learned in the earlier courses by working through a variety of planning techniques. You will actually plan an estate and prepare the documentation to implement that plan. Emphasis will be placed on interviewing and interacting with clients, as well as ethical issues. It is strongly recommended that you take Decedents' Estates, Estate & Gift Taxation, and Taxation I before taking Estate Planning. Professor Abell requires students to have taken Estate & Gift Taxation before enrolling in his estate planning seminar.
If you wish to specialize in this area, you may consider enrolling in related courses that would complement the core courses. For example, basic knowledge of income taxation of individuals, corporations, trusts, and estates can be very useful to an estate planner. Many clients wish to implement philanthropic objectives, so that a familiarity with charitable organizations is very helpful. 401(k) plans, IRAs, and other retirement plans make up much of the wealth of many clients, and it is important to understand some of the unique aspects of such plans. Thus, Taxation I and Taxation II, as well as the courses in Advanced Private Wealth Planning Seminar (graduate), and Retirement Income: Taxation and Regulation would be relevant. Finally, you will want to be thoroughly familiar with the kinds of business interests and entities that your client will own; thus, Corporations, Business Planning, and other similar courses would be helpful electives.
Retirement Income: Taxation and Regulation
Trusts: Law and Practice
Advanced Partnership Taxation
Estate and Gift Tax
Income Taxation of Trusts, Estates and Beneficiaries
Special Topics in Transfer Tax
Tax Treatment of Charities and Other Nonprofit Organizations