Trust and Estate Planning: The Emergence of a Profession and Its Contribution to Socioeconomic Inequality

Brooke Harrington

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    This article offers a new perspective on the connection between socioeconomic inequality and occupations by examining the impact of trust and estate planners on global wealth stratification. While many studies treat the professions as mirrors of inequalities in their environments, this article looks at the ways professionals participate in the creation of stratification regimes. Trust and estate planners do this by sheltering their clients' assets from taxation, thereby preserving private wealth for future generations. Using tools such as trusts, offshore banks, and shell corporations, these professionals keep a significant portion of the world’s private wealth beyond the reach of the state. Trust and estate planning thus contributes to creating and maintaining socioeconomic inequality on a global scale. The significance of the profession has grown as wealth itself has become more fungible, spurring innovation in legal, organizational, and financial strategies, and thwarting a myriad of laws and policies designed to limit enduring inequality in modern, democratic societies.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalSociological Forum
    Issue number4
    Pages (from-to)825-846
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


    • Elites
    • Family Economics
    • Inequality
    • Professions
    • Stratification
    • Wealth

    Cite this