For some time, I have enjoyed reading Death and Taxes -The Blog which is published by Chicago area attorney Joel A. Schoenmeyer. While the blog’s focus is understandably on Illinois law (just as my blog tries to focus upon New York law), a variety of topics are well-presented which are of common interest to all of us interested in the field of probate and estate law and litigation.
Yesterday, Joel published his review of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. For one whose consideration of Dickens basically ended with sophomore English, I found the analysis of the book from a lawyer’s point of view to be enthralling. It is noteworthy how many of today’s topics of legal concern can be found in Bleak House. Joel finds references to probate, administration and even lost wills. Lawyers, of course, receive shoddy treatment at Dickens’ hands -nothing those of us in the field are unused to today.
On a more somber note, one can draw some parallels from Bleak House to attitudes in today’s society. “I got mine. I got yours -now go to hell” is a Dickensian picture of 19th century England which has an echo in American tax and bankruptcy “reform” as well as what is happening to workers’ pension funds while their CEO’s enrich themselves with platinum parachutes.
As an attorney, I realize that my opposition to the elimination of estate taxes (instead of allowing them to remain at levels relatively similar to what we now have) may be met by cynicism. Still, it is hard to avoid the realization that such a turn of events would lead us well along the road to the concentration of wealth in just a few hands and a society much akin to the one Dickens rails against in Bleak House.