I first heard the term “cultural competency” at a session I attended at the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning in January 2020. Since then, I’ve been hearing and reading more and more about this important issue. When helping a client come up with an estate plan that meets that client’s needs, you can’t make general assumptions, but rather, you should understand the personal and cultural issues your client embraces. The more you know about your clients, the better you’ll be able to serve them. That idea is underscored in the article “Sharia Inheritance Estate Plans,” p. 50, by Yaser Ali and Martin M. Shenkman. They point out that some of the conventional tools many estate planners use could violate Islamic customs and laws. For example, they note that Muslim law prohibits excessive speculation. Although some risk is involved in every investment or business transaction, your Islamic clients may want to avoid a situation in which there’s significant uncertainty on crucial aspects of a deal. For example, this situation could arise in a transaction in which the identifying characteristics of the item or the price of the item are arbitrary or unknown.
Another topic that practitioners are rightfully focused on these days is what changes they can expect from President Biden and his administration, as well as how to prepare clients for these potential changes. Biden’s recently issued Green Book contains proposals that could have a dramatic impact on estate planning for high-net-worth individuals. In “The 2021 Green Book’s Focus on Income Taxes,” p. 34, James I. Dougherty and Marissa Dungey review the history preceding the issuance of the Green Book and highlight its proposals regarding recognition events for income tax purposes.