4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Carla C. Keirns
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a brilliant analysis of the experience of old age caregiving for parents and children as the agrarian 19th century turned into the industrial 20th (circa 1840 to 1940), and families began to face longer life expectancies without the social safety nets of pensions, Social Security, nursing homes, Medicare and Medicaid.
While some may see that era of private provision for one's old age as a lost period of love and rectitude, Hartog paints a compelling but much darker picture. Though his sources center on 200 cases of contested inheritances for the details of how families negotiated old age care in the decades before and after the Civil war (most of the material is circa 1840 to 1910), he places these family dramas in social and legal context and captures an extraordinary amount of detail about how daughters and sons reordered their life plans to care for aging parents and parents used both love and property to lure them to do so.
Who won and who lost, and the fraught bargains and harsh choices both the young and old faced does not minimize the challenges faced by caregivers today, but makes a compelling case for the social supports we have created for the elderly, and the ways that they free the young to pursue their own lives (even if the middle aged must often return home to manage that care).
As one of the leading historians of law in the United States and no stranger to family law (his last book was on marriage). Hartog's analysis of the implications of property law doctrines for how families would arrange their lives explains much about what is the same, and what is very different, from the world faced by our great-great grandparents when they looked to their final years. It also explained to me why in old movies and novels the lawyer was always called to the deathbed to change the will, besides the usual trope in them about the new wife or conniving relatives.
I practice palliative medicine. Legal issues continue to arise at the end of life today: living wills and health care proxies to specify medical wishes and decisionmakers, wills, guardianship of minor children, distribution of property, provision for those left behind, and the rather newer legal practice of arranging trusts to take advantage of Medicaid and preserve family assets to list only the most common. Families continue to face incredible challenges in financing, providing, and managing care, particularly the expectations placed on daughters and the mismatch between those expectations and careers for women when housing costs make it difficult for one income to support a family, and more women have become the primary breadwinners for their families. All of this seems new and overwhelming -- and overwhelming it is -- but as Hartog shows, new, it is not.
0 of 15 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I admit that I didn't read the sub-title when I chose to purchase this book so perhaps I deserve to be disappointed. This book is truely a history of inheritance rather than case study of modern estate and inheritance practices. The cases cited are from the mid-1800s so have little value to estate and inheritance law today. A book that I enjoyed titled From the Grave is much more relevant and fun to read.