Paul L. Caron

Monday, November 15, 2021

Incentivizing Wills Through Tax

Margaret Ryznar (Indiana-McKinney), Incentivizing Wills Through Tax:

There have been recent calls to loosen will formalities in order to allow more people to execute wills, the importance of which has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The reduction of necessary will formalities can be successful in expanding the use of wills, as can potential tax incentives for creation of wills, such as a tax credit. However, there are numerous advantages to using tax to initiate change, as considered in this Article.

In the movies, runaway pandemics do not raise trusts & estates issues. In reality, however, they do. As the COVID-19 pandemic barreled across the United States in Spring 2020, “some nervous citizens scrambled to purchase toilet paper, [while others] made telephone appointments with estate planning attorneys about drafting a will.” In particular, many doctors, nurses, and other first responders rushed to complete their wills. 

The rush to estate plan during the pandemic arose because so few Americans have a will—by some estimates, less than half of people in the United States have a will. While trusts & estates law seeks to protect testamentary freedom, many people do not take advantage of it. Some are reluctant to confront their mortality, while other are intimidated by the will-making process. A real problem, therefore, is the lack of wills in American society.

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