The study of federal estate tax law reveals the depth of the concept of property. The estate tax subjects property to a transfer tax upon death. There’s a huge amount of case law on exactly what property is. Clever estate tax lawyers are masters at arranging property rights to escape the estate tax.
One interesting property right that is instructive on the nature of property is the power of appointment. Property is not just retained possession and enjoyment of wealth; it’s also the right to designate to others the possession or enjoyment of wealth. Wealth provides more than mere personal pleasure and comfort; it also brings with it the power to control the lives of others by granting or withholding the opportunity to participate in the enjoyment of wealth. Congress deemed the right to direct how money will be distributed a taxable property right (even if you never did or will actually own that money). As discussed last week, Property is the power to exclude (it’s mine, keep off). Property is also the power to include (it’s mine, enjoy)
Controlling others and the world around you is really what property is all about. That’s why it’s so important to accumulate wealth in your estate planning War Chest. Controlling others is vital, not just to pay for services you need or desire, but more importantly, for the sake of your family. If you don’t control others with property, others (including government) will control you. Your family vision and moral imperatives are preserved, protected and carried into the future with enough wealth and an estate plan. Next week, in Part 3 we’ll look at controlling an inheritance of not only money, but also vision and moral values.