Death and Taxes and Zombies

Law reviews are not usually noted for their humour. However, Adam Chodorow, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Innovative Ventures at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, addresses this shortcoming in legal scholarship and another major policy shortcoming in a forthcoming article in the Iowa Law Review. Here's an abstract of the article.

The US stands on the precipice of a financial disaster, and Congress has done nothing but bicker. Of course, I refer to the coming day when the undead walk the earth, feasting on the living. A zombie apocalypse will create an urgent need for significant government revenues to protect the living, while at the same time rendering a large portion of the taxpaying public dead or undead. The government’s failure to anticipate or plan for this eventuality could cripple its ability to respond effectively, putting us all at risk. This article fills a glaring gap in the academic literature by examining how the estate and income tax laws apply to the undead. Beginning with the critical question whether the undead should be considered dead for estate tax purposes, the article continues on to address income tax issues the undead are likely to face. In addition to zombies, the article also considers how estate and income tax laws should apply to vampires and ghosts. Given the difficulties identified herein of applying existing tax law to the undead, new legislation may be warranted. However, any new legislation is certain to raise its own set of problems. The point here is not to identify the appropriate approach. Rather, it is to goad Congress and the IRS into action before it is too late.

Electronic copy available at:

The article is well worth reading, if just for the authorities cited in the footnotes. (Experienced readers of legal scholarship know the best writing is often in the footnotes.)

Thanks to David Cheifetz and Slaw for bringing this to our attention.