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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

The Rising Power of the American Dead

image of skeletal hand holding US 100 dollar bills


Ray Madoff
Boston College Law School

Date: Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010
Time: 12:00-1:15 PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road

Abstract: What does the American legal system have to say about the rights of the dead? Surprisingly, quite a bit. These rules tell a hidden story about what we really value for both the dead and, more importantly, the living. Ray Madoff will discuss her new book, Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead (Yale 2010) which examines the distinctly American approach taken to the law of the dead. Americans have virtually no protections for the interests we hold most dear—our bodies and reputation—but when it comes to property interests, the American dead have greater control than anywhere else in the world. Moreover, these rights are growing—but not for the reasons you might think. Corporations are using the dead as a decoy to expand their own resources.

headshot of Ray Madoff

Ray Madoff is a Professor at Boston College Law School where she teaches trusts and estates, estate and gift, tax, estate planning, and a seminar on immortality and the law. She is the author of Immortality and the Law: The Rising Power of the American Dead (Yale 2010), which looks at how American law treats the interests of the dead and what this tells us about our values for the living. She is also the lead author of Practical Guide to Estate Planning (CCH), and has written in a wide variety of areas involving property and death. She is a frequent commentator on all matters involving property, taxes and death and has published several op-eds in the New York Times, as well as the LA Times and the Boston Globe. Professor Madoff has appeared on All Things Considered, Marketplace and the Leonard Lopate Show. Professor Madoff is a member of the American Law Institute, an Academic Fellow of the American College of Trusts and Estates Counsel and past chair of the Trusts and Estates Section of the American Association of Law Schools. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the ACTEC Foundation.


In the News:

"America Builds an Aristocracy"

by Ray D. Madoff, 7.10.2010
The New York Times Op-Ed

Madoff discusses the problem of dynasty trusts and Congress' inactivity toward the zero tax on inherited wealth. She spoke about her new book Immortality and the Law at the Boisi Center on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010.


"Inherited wealth shouldn't get a free pass on taxes"

by Ray D. Madoff, 7.6.2010
Los Angeles Times Op-Ed

According to Ray Madoff, professor at Boston College Law School, "Repeal of the estate tax imposes significant costs on the taxpaying public and promotes concentrations of wealth that harm our democracy." Madoff is author of Immortality and the Law. She discussed her new book at the Boisi Center on Tuesday, Oct. 5. You can listen to an audio recording of the talk here.