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Estate Planning: A Pathfinder

Updated by
Renee Y. Rastorfer, Head of Research Services

September 2014



Table of Contents


Estate Planning is the practice of arranging for the disposition of real and personal property, through various means, before and after the death of a client. The usual goals are to maximize retention of wealth and satisfy the desires of the client with regard to disposition of assets. This process includes several related areas of law, including wills, trusts, property, insurance, taxation, and government assistance programs. Wills and trusts deal with the disposition of property after death and during life. Estate and gift taxes may affect what property is available for distribution, and what property distributions are subject to taxation. Insurance policies may alter the amount of property being distributed at a client's death. Eligibility for government assistance programs is often affected by net worth and property owned; therefore, a comprehensive estate plan should take into account whether such eligibility is necessary for a particular client, and how such eligibility may be attained through the distribution of assets.

Most of these areas are governed by common law and state codes; the federal government has influence primarily over taxation and assistance programs such as Social Security and Medicare. State and federal statutory codes are the most basic sources of authority for estate planning law. A variety of treatises and continuing legal education materials provide useful summaries of state-specific information, including forms. Periodicals provide up-to-date information on legal developments and useful summaries of unfamiliar topics. Both treatises and periodicals may be available through electronic means.

Primary Sources

Many of the primary sources involved in estate planning are state statutes. The law library maintains state statutes in print, located on the second floor. These state materials are arranged alphabetically by state on the north side of the floor. Massachusetts materials are available in the Massachusetts collection on the first floor of the library. State statutes are also available electronically.

The United States Code and Code of Federal Regulations are also maintained in print on the second floor of the library. Tax-related issues are one area in which federal law affects estate planning. Additionally, federal government assistance programs are governed by these materials. Federal statutes and regulations are widely available in electronic resources.

Finding Print Resources

The Law Library maintains a collection of estate planning materials for use by library patrons. A significant amount of material is kept on Reserve or Professor Reserve, and is available for use within the library for three hours at a time, renewable if no one is waiting. While this material is selected for the use of students taking various estate planning classes, it is available for use by all patrons.

Subject Headings

WILDPAC is the online catalog of the Law Library and the undergraduate D'Amour Library. It is useful for finding books and periodicals owned by the library, and for identifying resources available through the Internet. In addition, WILDPAC indicates the location of materials held by the Law Library. To find a book in the Law Library, note the Location and Call Number from the WILDPAC display.

WILDPAC can be searched by title, author, keyword or subject heading. A keyword search identifies material if the entered word appears anywhere in the library record; the word may appear in the title, author, publisher, subject heading or summary information fields. This is the most flexible type of search.

Searches using a subject heading are more focused than keyword searches. Subject headings are assigned to each book or periodical to facilitate identifying the major themes in a work. Certain subject headings are used by academic libraries to identify estate planning and related materials. Relevant subject headings include:

  • Estate Planning
  • Estates (Law)
  • Inheritance and Transfer Tax
  • Insurance
  • Tax Planning
  • Trusts and Trustees
  • Wealth Transfer
  • Wills

Each of these subject headings is broken down into more specific categories by subdivisions. Combined, the subject heading and subdivision identify a narrow range of materials. Commonly used subdivisions in this area include:

  • United States
  • Forms
  • Law and Legislation
  • Handbooks Manuals, etc.

State materials are designated by a subdivision [state] where [state] is the state’s full name. The Law Library may not hold materials in each of these subject headings/subdivision combinations.

In searching the catalog, select “Other Searches: Subject” to enter a known subject heading. To use a subdivision, add the terms to the end of the heading itself.

Example:            estate planning
With subdivision: estate planning forms

Materials similar to a known item can be found by using the subject heading links in a record. Clicking on a link will perform a subject search on that subject heading, including any subdivisions. This is similar to finding a useful book on the shelf, and then looking at the books shelved nearby. One advantage of using subject headings for this kind of search is that books are often assigned several subject headings, which enables one to expand a search in a specific area.

Call numbers

Most of the material held in the Law Library is arranged by the major topic of the work. The following ranges of call numbers are devoted to "estate planning" and related topics. Browse in these areas of the library to locate interesting and useful materials.

  • Elder Law KF 390
  • Trusts & Estates KF 726-780
  • Estate Planning KF 746-750
  • Wills KF 755-769
  • Insurance KF 1146-1238
  • Estate and Gift Tax KF 6571-6594

Treatises and multistate guides

The ABA Practical Guide to Estate Planning (Jay A. Soled, ed., 2011). KF 750 .A733 2011.

Thomas D. Begley & Cynthia Barrett, Representing the Elderly or Disabled Client: Forms and Checklists with Commentary (WG&L 2000-). Reserve KF390 .A4 F67 2000. CD 7314.

Ralph C. Brashier, Inheritance Law and the Evolving Family (Temple University Press 2004). KF755 .B73 2004.

Estate Planning Strategies: a Lawyer's Guide to Retirement and Lifetime Planning (Jay A. Soled, ed., Senior Lawyers Division, American Bar Association 2002). KF315 .E84 2002.

Stephen Elias & Kevin Urbatsch, Special Needs Trusts: Protect Your Child's Financial Future (Nolo 2013). Law Reserve KF480.Z9 E435 2013.  

Kenney F. Hegland & Robert B. Fleming, New Times, New Challenges: Law and Advice for Savvy Seniors and Their Families (Carolina Academic Press 2010). KF390 .A4 H443 2010.

Paul L. Hood, Jr., The Tools and Techniques of Estate Planning for Modern Families (National Underwriter 2012). Law Reserve KF6572.Z9 L445.

Jerold I. Horn, Flexible Trusts and Estates for Uncertain Times (4th ed., ALI-ABA 2010). KF6572 .H67 2010. CD 7449.

Deborah L. Jacobs, Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User-friendly, Action-Oriented Guide (2d ed., DJWorking Unlimited 2011). KF750 .Z9 J33 2011.

Lucy A. Marsh, Contemporary Issues in Wills, Trusts & Estates (Vandeplas Publishing 2013). KF750 .M37 2013. 

Louis A. Mezzullo, An Estate Planner's Guide to Family Business Entities: Family Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies, and More (3d ed., American Bar Association, Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law 2010). Reserve KF1380 .M39 2010.

Paula A. Monopoli, American Probate: Protecting the Public, Improving the Process (Northeastern University Press 2003). KF765 .M66 2003.

Multistate Guide To Estate Planning (Panel Pub. 1999-). KF750 .Z95 M85. CD 7533.

Restatement of the Law, Trusts (rev. and enl. ed., The American Law Institute Pub 2003-). Reserve KF730 .R47 2003.

Jeffrey Schoenblum, Multistate And Multinational Estate Planning (2007- ed., CCH Inc.). KF 750. S363.

Peter Spero, Asset Protection: Legal Planning, Strategies, and Forms (WG&L 2001-). KF9025 .S672 2001. CD 7275.

Howard M. Zaritsky, Tax Planning for Family Wealth Transfers During Life: Analysis with Forms (Thomson Reuters 2013). KF6572 .Z38 2013. 


Many titles are also available electronically, through Westlaw, Lexis or other library database. HeinOnline provides access to older issues of many journals. If you are unsure of the Law Library’s holdings, search WILDPAC by title. WILDPAC will indicate if the Law Library holds the title in print or provides access to it electronically.

A selection of useful titles follows. Other legal periodicals, like treatises, may be found by searching WILDPAC by keyword or subject heading. The subject heading subdivision Periodicals is used to identify them in the catalog.

ALI-ABA Estate Planning Course Materials Journal: CMJ EP. Library has v. 1 (1995) - 8 (2003), 11 (2005) - present.

Estate Planning (WG&L). Library has v. 1 (1973) - present.

Estate Planning & Community Property Law Journal (Tex. Tech U.). Library has v. 1 (2008) - present.

Estate Planning & Taxation Coordinator. Estate Planners Alert (RIA). Looseleaf Reserve KF6581.5 .E8.

International Tax & Estate Planning (PLI). Available on Lexis.

AALS, Section on Donative Transfers, Fiduciaries and Estate Planning, Newsletter (AALS). KF6577.3 .A87.

Electronic Resources

Westlaw Resources
An Estate Planning tab is available on the customizable MyWestlaw page. When logged in to Westlaw, select the "Add a Tab" link just to the right of the tabs. Tabs for topical areas, including one for the estate planning practitioner, are available and provide easy access to primary materials, including the Internal Revenue Code, Treasury Regulations, federal and state cases in the Estate Planning and Probate area; state-specific practice guides and forms; federal taxation sources, including IRS tables and rates; and prominent treatises. It is possible to search in multiple sources at one time, from this tab. An Update feature is also available to track the newest Estate Planning news. There is no similar function on WestlawNext. There is an estate-planning section under the "Topics" tab, but this researcher has been unable to discover anyway to limit the results to a specific jurisdiction.
Lexis Resources
The Area of Law by Topic guides provide access to all relevant types of authority for a particular subject area. To access these guides, select the "Legal" tab, and then "Area of Law - by Topic" from the menu. An alphabetical list of subject areas is displayed. Each of these guides may be added as a "tab" to a researcher's customized Lexis page. The guides for Estates, Gifts, and Trusts let a researcher easily access federal and state cases, statutes, administrative materials; treatises; forms; clauses; and law review articles. Another useful guide for Estate Planning is Elder Law. This guide provides access to elder law cases, statutes, administrative materials; treatises; news; CLE materials; and law review articles.

Other Online Resources

The BloombergBNA Tax and Accounting Center is a multi-source Library providing a combination of portfolios, Daily Tax Report, and analysis on state and Federal tax. The "Tax Management Portfolios" are a series of handbooks written by practicing tax attorneys and accounts, designed to assist a tax practitioner in finding solutions to a variety of tax-related problems covering the areas of U.S. Income; Foreign Income; Estates, Gifts & Trusts; and Multistate. Each portfolio includes a thorough discussion of a particular tax problem. A portfolio may also contain forms, worksheets, and checklists.  User name, barcode number, and PIN required for off-campus access.

The Law By Subject: Trusts & Estates page describes selected websites dealing with Trusts and Estates topics.

The Law By Subject: Taxation page describes selected websites dealing with Taxation.

The Law by Subject: Elder Law page describes selected websites dealing with Elder Law.

Library Assistance

Research Assistance: Librarians are available to help you plan your research strategy and to help you find a resource that might be useful in your project. Call the Reference Desk at 413-782-1458, find us on Chat Reference, set up an appointment, or fill out an electronic Reference Request Form on the Law Library homepage!

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