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An Empirical Analysis of Wealth Transfer Law

Friday, October 11, 2019


Professor Naomi Cahn

Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development; Harold H. Greene Professor of Law at George Washington University School of Law

Paper Title: "What's Wrong About The Elective Share 'Right'?"

Naomi Cahn is the Harold H. Greene Professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School. She has written numerous law review articles on elder law, family law, and trusts and estates. She has co-authored two trusts and  estates casebook, and the fifth edition of her co-authored family law casebook was just published. Professor Cahn is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, a member of the American Law Institute,  and a Fellow of American Bar Association. Her forthcoming book, Shafted: The Fate of Women in a Winner-take-all World (with June Carbone and Nancy Levit) will be published by an imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2020.  She has written numerous other books, including  Homeward Bound:  Modern Families, Elder Care, and Loss (OUP 2017)(with Amy Ziettlow), Marriage  Markets (OUP 2014)(with June Carbone); The New Kinship (NYU Press 2012); and Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture (2010) (with June Carbone). Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New Yorker, and she has appeared on numerous media outlets including NPR and MSNBC. She is a contributing writer to the Forbes Leadership Channel.


Professor Alyssa DiRusso

Palmer Professor of Law at Cumberland School of Law at Samford University

Paper Title: "Using Empirical Data on the Widowhood Effect to Optimize Simultaneous Death Law and Drafting"

Professor Alyssa DiRusso specializes in trusts and estates, tax, and related areas of law. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute (ALI) and an elected Academic Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC). Professor DiRusso serves as the associate editor of the peer-reviewed ACTEC Law Journal from 2018-2020 and will serve as editor in chief from 2020-2022. She has been admitted to practice in Massachusetts (inactive), Alabama, and before the United States Supreme Court.Professor DiRusso teaches Wills, Trusts and Estates, Estate and Gift Tax, Estate and Trust Administration, Taxation of Nonprofits, and Federal Income Tax. She has received multiple awards for her commitment to teaching. Professor DiRusso joined the Cumberland School of Law faculty and the Birmingham community in 2005, after practicing as a trusts and estates attorney in Boston, Massachusetts, since 1999. Professor DiRusso is a co-author of the Wolters-Kluwer textbook Wills, Trusts & Estates In Focus, with Naomi Cahn and Susan Gary


Professor Bridget J. Crawford

James D. Hopkins Professor of Law at Pace Law School

Paper Title: “What Probate Courts Cite: A Study of the New York County Surrogate’s Court 2017-2018”

Bridget Crawford is a Professor of Law at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in White Plains, New York.  She is a member of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the former editor of the ACTEC Law Journal.  Professor Crawford attended Yale University (BA, 1991), the University of Pennsylvania Law School (JD, 1996) and Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia (PhD, 2013).  Prior to joining the Pace faculty in 2003, she practiced in the Trusts & Estates group at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP in New York.  Professor Crawford’s recent scholarship includes Blockchain Wills, Indiana Law Journal (forthcoming 2019),  Magical Thinking and Trusts, Seton Hall Law Review (forthcoming 2019), and Wills Formalities in the Twenty-First Century, 2019 Wisc. L. Rev. 269 (symposium). She is the co-editor of Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Opinions of the United States (Cambridge 2016) and the co-author of two tax casebooks. You can follow Professor Crawford on Twitter @ProfBCrawford



Professor Reid Kress Weisbord

Vice Dean, Professor of Law, and Judge Norma L. Shapiro Scholar at Rutgers Law School

Paper Title: "Fiduciary Authority and Liability in Probate Estates: An Empirical Analysis"

Reid Kress Weisbord is a Professor of Law and the Judge Norma L. Shapiro Scholar at Rutgers Law School, where he has been a member of the faculty since 2010. Professor Weisbord is the author of more than 25 law review articles, essays, and book chapters, and is the co-author of a textbook on wills, trusts, and estates. He served as Vice Dean of Rutgers Law School from 2013 to 2019.



Professor Russell James

The CH Foundation Chair of Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech University

Paper Title: "Empirical analysis of charitable bequest transfers: A comprehensive review, new findings, and the emerging potential of longitudinal data"

Russell James, J.D., Ph.D., CFP® is a professor in the Department of Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech University where he directs the graduate program in Charitable Financial Planning.  He graduated, cum laude, from the University of Missouri School of Law where he was a member of the Missouri Law Review and received the United Missouri Bank Award for Most Outstanding Work in Gift and Estate Taxation and Planning. He also holds a Ph.D. in consumer economics from the University of Missouri, where his dissertation was on charitable giving.  Dr. James has published over 70 academic journal articles predominantly related to estates, property, and charitable transfers. 



Professor David O. Horton

Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law

Paper Title: “Do-It-Yourself Wills.”

David Horton joined the UC Davis faculty in 2012 after three years at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. He teaches and writes in the areas of wills and trusts, arbitration law, and contracts. He has won the Association of American Law Schools’ Scholarly Paper Competition, the Mangano Dispute Resolution Achievement Award, and the Distinguished Teaching Award. In 2017, he was selected as a UC Davis Chancellor’s Fellow and elected an Academic Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.

Horton’s work has appeared (or will soon appear) in the Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, N.Y.U. Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, California Law Review, Northwestern University Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal, UCLA Law Review, Vanderbilt Law Review, Boston University Law Review, Iowa Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Boston College Law Review, William & Mary Law Review, North Carolina Law Review, and University of Colorado Law Review, among others. He has also co-authored two casebooks: CASES, PROBLEMS, AND MATERIALS ON CONTRACTS (Aspen 8th ed. forthcoming 2019) (with Douglas J. Whaley) and WILLS, TRUSTS, AND ESTATES: THE ESSENTIALS (with Reid Kress Weisbord and Stephen K. Urice)

Horton received his B.A. cum laude from Carleton College in 1997 and his J.D. from UCLA School of Law in 2004. At UCLA, he was elected to the Order of the Coif and served as Chief Articles Editor of the UCLA Law Review. He then practiced at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco and clerked for the Honorable Ronald M. Whyte of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.



Professor Robert H. Sitkoff

John L. Gray Professor of Law at Harvard Law School

Lunchtime Keynote Address

An expert in wills, trusts, estates, and fiduciary administration, Robert H. Sitkoff is the John L. Gray Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where he was the youngest professor with tenure to receive a chair in the history of the school. Sitkoff previously taught at New York University School of Law and at Northwestern University School of Law. He has won three distinguished teaching awards.Sitkoff’s research focuses on economic and empirical analysis of trusts, estates, and fiduciary administration. His work has been published in leading scholarly journals such as the Yale Law Journal, the Stanford Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, the Journal of Law and Economics, and the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. Sitkoff is the lead coauthor of Wills, Trusts, and Estates (Aspen 10th ed. 2017), the most popular American coursebook on trusts and estates, and he is a coeditor of The Oxford Handbook of Fiduciary Law (Oxford University Press in 2019). Sitkoff’s research has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Financial Times, among other media.Sitkoff is an active participant in trusts and estates law reform. He serves under Massachusetts gubernatorial appointment on the Uniform Law Commission (ULC). Within the ULC, he was Chair of the Drafting Committee for the Uniform Directed Trust Act (2017) and he is a liaison member of the Joint Editorial Board for Uniform Trusts and Estates Acts. He previously served as a member of several other drafting committees for uniform trusts and estates acts and as the Reporter for the Uniform Statutory Trust Entity Act (last revised 2013). Within the American Law Institute, Sitkoff is a member of the Council, the Institute’s Board of Directors, and he is a member of the Council’s Projects Committee. He is an Adviser for the Restatement (Third) of Conflict of Laws. He previously served on the advisory panel or consultative group for the Restatement (Third) of Trusts, the Restatement (Third) of Property: Wills and Other Donative Transfers, and the Restatement of Charitable Nonprofits. Sitkoff serves as an advisory consultant and expert witness in litigation and regulatory matters involving wills, trusts, estates, and fiduciary administration. He has also led training workshops for trust officers and other professional fiduciaries. Sitkoff edits the Wills, Trusts, and Estates abstracting journal in the Social Science Research Network, is a past chair of the Section on Trusts and Estates of the Association of American Law Schools, and is an academic fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.Prior to joining the legal academy, Sitkoff was a law clerk to then Chief Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. At the University of Chicago Law School, from which he graduated with High Honors, Sitkoff was the Managing Editor of the Law Review, was selected for the Order of the Coif, and was awarded the Olin Prize as the outstanding graduate of his class in law and economics.



Professor Adam Hofri-Winogradow

Montesquieu Chair in Comparative Law at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Paper Title: "The Statutory Liberalization of Trust Law across 152 Jurisdictions: Leaders, Laggards and the Market in Fiduciary Services"

Adam Hofri-Winogradow is Montesquieu Chair in Comparative Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Law. He specializes in the comparative study of trusts law, fiduciary law, estates (succession & wills) law, "elder law", pensions, insurance, and relevant issues of tax and family law. Adam published comparative research on the reform and transformation of trust law and trust practice in dozens of countries worldwide, using a large array of empirical research methods: quantitative, qualitative and historical. A winner of two academic prizes, Adam was a visiting professor at Georgetown Law Center, at Western Ontario University, and at the Center for Transnational Legal Studies, London, and was Martin Flynn Global Law Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. He will soon make a similar visit to the University of Virginia School of Law. He has taught the basic trust law course under the laws of England, Ontario and Israel, as well as a wide-ranging class in comparative and offshore trust law and practice. Adam has published work in journals including the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, the Modern Law Review, the Iowa Law Review, Law and History Review, Law and Social Inquiry, the University of Toronto Law Journal, Journal of Private International Law, Hastings Law Journal, Ohio State Law Journal and Trust Law International. He regularly speaks at conferences around the world.


Professor Emily Taylor Poppe

Assistant Professor of Law at UC Irvine School of Law

Paper Title: "(In)Action & the Inevitable: The Demographics of Estate Planning"

Professor Emily Taylor Poppe is an interdisciplinary empirical scholar whose research is primarily focused on access to civil justice. She has investigated several mechanisms underlying inequalities in access to justice across domains ranging from foreclosure litigation to estate planning. Professor Taylor Poppe holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Cornell University, a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law, and A.B. degrees in Public Policy and Spanish from Duke University.  Before entering academia, she worked as an associate in the Private Client Department of McDermott Will & Emery LLP in Chicago, IL and as Associate Director of Planned Giving for the Harvard Business School in Boston, MA.


Professor Gary E. Spitko

Associate Dean for Research, Presidential Professor of Ethics and the Common Good at Santa Clara University School of Law

Paper Title: Co-authored with Profesor Mary Louise Fellows, "How Should Will Substitutes Matter in Intestacy?: A Qualitative Study"

Professor E. Gary Spitko is the Associate Dean for Research, the Presidential Professor of Ethics and the Common Good and a Professor of Law at Santa Clara University. He has published extensively in the areas of donative transfers, arbitration, employment law, and sexual orientation and the law. Professor Spitko is an Academic Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and is a past Chair of the AALS Section on Donative Transfers. Professor Spitko earned his A.B., with distinction in all subjects, from Cornell University and his J.D., with high honors, from the Duke University School of Law, where he was elected to Order of the Coif. Following law school, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Gerald Bard Tjoflat, who was then Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He then practiced law for several years as an associate at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., and at Paul Hastings in Atlanta, Georgia.




Professor Danaya C. Wright

Clarence J. TeSelle Professor of Law at University of Florida Levin College of Law

Paper Title: "What Happened to Grandma's House: The Real Property Implications of Dying Intestate"

Danaya C. Wright is the Clarence J. TeSelle Professor of Law at the Levin College of Law, University of Florida.  She holds a BA from Cornell University in English Literature, an MA from the University of Arizona in English Literature, an MA from St. John’s College in Liberal Education, her JD from Cornell University, and a PhD in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University.  Her principal areas of teaching are Constitutional Law, Property, Trusts and Estates, and Legal History.  She is currently engaged in a large empirical study of probate records funded by the ACTEC Foundation, exploring how people in non-traditional families dispose of their property, as well as what happens to the home of both intestate and testate decedents.  She is also the author of a Trusts and Estates Casebook, a casebook on Future Interests, a Trusts and Estates Skills book, and writes on a variety of subjects, including English Family Law, Takings, and Constitutional Law.


Professor Adam Hirsch

Professor of Law at the University of San Diego

Paper Title: "Waking the Dead: An Empirical Analysis of Revival of Wills."

Professor Adam Hirsch was the William & Catherine VanDercreek Professor of Law at Florida State University. He is an academic fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and serves on the Florida Historical Commission. He joined the USD School of Law faculty in 2013. Professor Hirsch's doctoral dissertation received the George Washington Egleston Prize for the best dissertation on American history. The dissertation was expanded into a book, The Rise of the Penitentiary: Prisons and Punishment in Early America (Yale University Press, 1992). He has served as the Roger Traynor Fellow at Hastings College of Law.



Professor Alberto Lopez

Professor of Law at University of Alabama School of Law

Paper Title: "Antebellum and Postbellum Testamentary Transfers in Three Kentucky Counties"

Professor Lopez joined the University of Alabama School of Law faculty in 2013. He received a J.M.S. and J.S.D. of the Science of Law from Stanford Law School, and a J.D. from Indiana University School of Law. Prior to joining the law faculty at Alabama Professor Lopez taught at the University of Richmond. He is the author of numerous law review articles, and co-authored a book with Alfred L. Brophy and Kali N. Murray titled Integrating Spaces: Property Law & Race (Aspen Coursebook Series). Professor Lopez teaches Property, Decedents’ Estates, American Legal History, and Wills Drafting.


Professor Jeffrey N. Pennell

Richard H. Clark Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law

Paper Title: "Individuated Determination of a Surviving Spouse’s Elective Share"

Jeff is the Richard H. Clark Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, where he teaches income tax, wealth transfer tax, trusts and estates, estate planning, property, and professional responsibility. He earned his BS and JD degrees from Northwestern University and practiced for several years in Chicago before beginning his teaching career at the University of Oklahoma in 1978. He has taught as a visiting professor at the law schools of Southern Methodist University and the Universities of North Carolina and Texas, and was a visiting adjunct professor in the University of Miami LLM in Estate Planning degree program for over 30 years. Jeff published classroom texts on the Income Taxation of Trusts, Estates, Grantors, and Beneficiaries, on Federal Wealth Transfer Taxation, a third on Estate Planning and Drafting, and another on Trusts and Estates. He authored the Bloomberg BNA Tax Management portfolios on the Estate Tax Marital Deduction, on Estate Tax Payment and Apportionment, and coauthored the one on the Elective Share of a Surviving Spouse. He is the successor author of the treatise on estate planning, originally written by the late Harvard professor A. James Casner. He also has published selected chapters in various editions of the New York University Tax Institute, the University of Southern California Tax Institute, and the Notre Dame and Heckerling Estate Planning Institutes, along with an array of articles on estate planning. He was an adviser to both of the American Law Institute Restatement (Third) of Property (Wills and Other Donative Transfers) and Restatement (Third) of Trusts.




Professor Jane B. Baron

Professor of Law at Temple Law School

Commenting on Professor Reid Weisbord's paper.

Professor Jane Baron has written extensively on property, with a particular emphasis on homelessness. She has also published widely on law and literature, and in the area of trusts and estates. Her articles have appeared in such journals as Michigan Law Review, Columbia Law Review and the Yale Law Journal.

Immediately following law school, she practiced for three years as a litigator at the New York law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell. She then moved to a rural community in the mountains of Tennessee. While there, she taught part-time at the University of Tennessee College of Law. She joined the Temple faculty in 1984 and was the inaugural holder of the Peter J. Liacouras Professorship from 1993 to 1995. Professor Baron served as Associate Dean for Research from 2005 to 2007. In 2007 she was named I. Herman Stern Professor of Law. Professor Baron teaches Property, Trusts & Estates, and Land Use Planning, as well as a seminar on Ethical Perspectives on the Practice of Law (with Professor Richard Greenstein).



Professor Alexander Boni-Saenz

Assistant Professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law

Commenting on Professor David Horton's paper.

In the Fall of 2019, Professor Boni-Saenz will be a Visiting Professor at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. Professor Boni-Saenz's scholarship focuses on legal issues in aging, disability, and sexuality as well as doctrinal and institutional questions in inheritance law.  His scholarly work is interdisciplinary in nature and draws on insights from several areas, including medicine, philosophy, and social policy.  He has taught courses in Property, Trusts and Estates, Elder Law, Health Law, and Latinx and the Law.  In 2019, Professor Boni-Saenz received the Chicago-Kent College of Law Excellence in Teaching Award. Professor Boni-Saenz earned a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was a Notes Editor on the Harvard Law Review and an Editor on the Harvard Latino Law Review.  He also holds a M.Sc. with distinction in Social Policy from the London School of Economics and an A.B. magna cum laude with highest honors in Psychology and Government from Harvard College, where he was a Truman Scholar.



Professor Menesh Patel

Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law

Commenting on Professor Emily Poppe's paper. 

Menesh Patel joined the UC Davis faculty in 2018. His primary research interests include antitrust, corporate law, securities regulation, and capital markets.

Before joining UC Davis, Professor Patel was a research scholar at the Program in the Law and Capital Markets, a joint program of Columbia Law School and Columbia Business School. Prior to Columbia he practiced law for nearly ten years, most recently at the Chicago office of Sidley Austin. While in practice, Professor Patel handled numerous complex commercial matters, with an emphasis on antitrust cases involving claims of unlawful monopolization and antitrust merger clearance matters. In 2012-2013, he was a law and economics fellow at Stanford Law School.

Professor Patel received his J.D. from Stanford Law School, where he served as articles editor of the Stanford Law Review. In addition to his law degree, Professor Patel holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and undergraduate degrees in economics and mathematics from the University of Iowa.



Professor Donna Shestowsky

Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law

Commenting on Professor Bridget Crawford's paper. 

Donna Shestowsky is Professor of Law and Director of the Lawyering Skills Education Program. She teaches Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Advanced Negotiation and Client Counseling, Criminal Law, Lawyering Process, Negotiation Strategy, and the Seminar in Legal Psychology. Her main research objective is to examine basic assumptions underlying the structure of the legal system and to explore ways in which the legal system might be improved using the methodological and analytic tools of psychological theory and research.

Dr. Shestowsky is the sole principal investigator of a multi-year research project, funded by the National Science Foundation and the American Bar Association, which examines how litigants evaluate legal procedures. One article based on this work was awarded the 2016 Mangano Dispute Resolution Advancement Award; another article was awarded the Best Article of 2018 in the field of dispute resolution from the AALS Section on Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Dr. Shestowsky's legal and psychological commentary has appeared in national sources such as CNN, NPR, and the New York Times. She advises courts in the development of court-connected ADR programs and provides negotiation education services to corporations, law firms, and national organizations. She also coaches the King Hall Negotiation team, which routinely places at the nationals in the ABA’s negotiation and client counseling competitions and ranked first in the world in the international law student negotiations competition. She was the 2007 recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.

Her research has been published in top journals in both Psychology and Law, including the Stanford Law Review, Law and Human Behavior (twice), and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. She is dedicated to helping legal practitioners make use of empirical research. To that end, she also publishes in journals with broader audiences, such as Court Review and Dispute Resolution Magazine.

Dr. Shestowsky was awarded a J.D. and Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University. During the 2003-2004 academic year, she was jointly appointed to the faculty at Northwestern University School of Law and the Kellogg School of Management.



Professor Shayak Sarkar

Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law

Commenting on Professor Naomi Cahn's paper.

Shayak Sarkar's scholarship addresses the structure and legal regulation of inequality. His substantive interests lie in financial regulation, employment law, immigration, and taxation. He obtained his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard.

Professor Sarkar clerked for the Hon. Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Prior to his clerkship, he practiced as an employment attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services, where he focused on domestic workers’ rights. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was active in the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic. He also served as a Coker Fellow in Contracts and received the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. Before law school he studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, where he earned masters degrees, with distinction, in social work and development economics.

His research has appeared in academic journals including the Georgetown Law Journal, the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, and the Review of Economics and Statistics.



Professor Andrea Cann Chandrasekher

Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law

Commenting on Professor Alyssa DiRusso's paper.

Andrea Cann Chandrasekher holds a B.A. from Stanford University, a Masters in Statistics from UC Berkeley, a Ph.D. in Economics from UC Berkeley and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. Prior to joining the faculty at UC Davis, she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Northwestern Law School where she co-taught courses in Criminal Law and Law and Economics, a Visiting Researcher at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) and a Research Fellow at Stanford Law School. She has received many grants and fellowships for her research, including a recent grant from the Guggenheim foundation for her work on the connection between home foreclosures and crime with John Hagan.

Chandrasekher’s research lies within the fields of empirical law and economics, criminal law, and policing. In her work, she has studied a variety of topics including broken windows policing and police misconduct. She is also interested in the fields of labor economics and applied econometrics.



Professor Christopher S. Elmendorf

Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law

Commenting on Professor Adam Hofri-Winogradow's paper. 

Professor Elmendorf's varied teaching and research interests include election law, property and land-use law, statutory interpretation, and administrative law. He has published widely in top law journals, including the Yale Law Journal, Columbia Law Review, University of Chicago Law Review, New York University Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, California Law Review, Duke Law Journal, and Cornell Law Review, as well as leading peer-reviewed political science journals such as American Journal of Political Science, Political Analysis, Political Research Quarterly, and Political Behavior. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the MIT Election Science & Data Lab, and an Interdisciplinary Research Grant from the UC Davis Committee on Research.s.

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