In this groundbreaking book, Professor Chester examines dead hand control of property by decedents and how this phenomenon has changed form over the centuries, with particular emphasis on the period beginning with the 1980's. Although there is something essentially human about the desire to control the use of one's property after death, modern American dead hand control is both less personal and more far reaching than in the past; in addition, it tells us much about the society we inhabit. Whereas aristocracies were perpetuated in England by restrictions on land that often hindered freedom of bequest, in the modern United States the unleashing of this freedom by law has allowed estate planners to establish for the wealthy elaborate plans that themselves may create and perpetuate aristocracy.
Since dead hand control of property will always be with us in some form, exercising it through a charity of one's choosing may best satisfy both this human need and the needs of society in general. Thus, the use of great fortunes primarily for charitable endeavors may provide a compelling antidote to the early 21st century American emphasis on dynasty and greed.
Ronald Chester is Professor of Law at New England School of Law, Boston, and has served as a visiting professor of law at Indiana University (Bloomington), Southern Methodist University, and the University of California (Davis). In addition, he has served as an adjunct professor of law at Boston College and Suffolk University.
Formerly Chair of the Section on Donative Transfers, Fiduciaries, and Estate Planning of the Association of American Law Schools and of the Bioethics Committee of the American Bar Association's Real Property, Probate and Trust Section, Professor Chester is also an elected member of both the American Law Institute and the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel. He serves on various law reform committees of both organizations.
Professor Chester graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College and received the J.D. degree and a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University. He also received a postgraduate degree in criminology from Cambridge University (England) and served as a Fellow in Law and Humanities at Harvard Law School.
Ronald Chester has published three previous books: Inheritance, Wealth, and Society (1982), Unequal Access: Women Lawyers in a Changing America (1982), and (with Bogert) The Law of Trusts and Trustees Sections 411-470 (3d ed. 2005). In addition, he has written more than thirty scholarly articles and book reviews.