The Future of Charitable Estate Planning
Merit-based Groceryship

Groping for Love among the Trusts and Estates Attorneys

One lesson I learned in the humanities that has only been reinforced by a career in sales and a sojurn in the Madhouse is that all things can be described and reinscribed in various languages. For example, we can re-describe civil society as a "social capital marketplace." We can redescribe nonprofits as ventures with several bottomlines. We can redescribe all that is intimate, generous, or holy in the language of finance (the language by which we are consumed.) Thus, we have The Four Capitals of Wealthy Families (personal, social, spiritual, and whatever else sounds good). Thus we invest in our family. We make a deposit when we love another. Or we make a withdrawal. Our children are assets or liabilities. We seek a social return on investment, or a financial return on love, or from government service, or thinking in a tank. It all comes down to what literary people call a "conceit," an extended metaphor worked out with great ingentuity, as in Metaphysical poetry, or at Stanford Social Innovation Review.

I found it refreshing, therefore, to read a recent piece by a friend, Patricia Angus, Esquire. She went to Amherst, mastered law and finance at the highest levels, worked for prestigious law firms, worked for a multifamily office, worked with Jay Hughes, has her own practice in family governance, and teaches social enterprise at Columbia. (All of which she takes lightly, as no particular achievement at all.)  Now, for Trusts and Estates, she is reinscribing the language of love into the language of love, translating the translation, back to the real sources. From love to finance and now back to love. It is a sign of the times that her effort reads as insubordination, or outrageous incursion, or pure insolence. She is challenging attorneys and estate planners to act and sound half way human as they discuss love, family, community, virtue and vice, wisdom and folly, dynasty, and of course mortality. 

Patricia and I (she sane, I insane) share the conviction that Wealth Bondage as we have lived it, as Professionals, at all levels, high (her) and low (I) is an act of love:  Love of Humankind, Love of God, and Love of Filthy Lucre.  Properly balanced, with an appropraite Scorecard, this is a Venture that would sustain Pilgrim throughout a Progress past the Slough of Despond,  and the Cave of Learned Ignorance, to the Whirlpool of Disruption, to the Rapids of Innovation, to the Palace of Wisdom, to  the House of Riches on Heaven as on Earth.  To write like this is (I know because the Doctors tell me) is just plain wrong! May Patricia Angus suffer a better fate than I. Her brain is too good to go under the knife. But if, on advice of counsel, she does need a lobotomy, I know a surgeon who doesn't charge anything, because he scoops out people's brains for pleasure - "for love," as he puts it, "of the work itself."

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