We often wonder why we remember some things so clearly but cannot remember why we went into the kitchen. Recently, we were reading an article about Michael Jackson’s estate, and a discussion from our high school American history class came back. We were talking about immigration.
At the time, there were competing schools of thought about multicultural societies, particularly our own. The first was the “melting pot” theory, the idea that people came to America with their own cultural norms and traditions and slowly melded their cultures into one big American culture.
The second theory held that we were not a melting pot at all. If we were anything, we were a “crazy salad” of all the different cultures that have come here over the centuries. There is not one big American culture. What we have is different cultures living side by side and maintaining their unique identities. Each wave of immigrants brought traditions and belief systems from the home country that were cherished, not abandoned.
In the crazy salad, a garbanzo bean is still a garbanzo bean. When you add a garbanzo bean to a salad, you can just as easily remove it. When you add one to a melting pot, it merges with the rest of the ingredients and cannot be isolated and removed.
Michael Jackson triggered the memory of that discussion because there are so many different areas of the law that apply. Probate is like that. Settling an estate means drawing on property law, family law, contract law, tax law, federal law and state law, insurance law — it speaks to the complexity of a person’s life that settling an estate requires multiple areas of expertise. Melting pot or crazy salad?
Either way, of course, the Jackson estate has been a challenge for the family, the lawyers and the courts. To explain recent developments, we must put on our property law hats. It will take us a day or so to brush them off, so we will continue this discussion next week.
Source: Forbes, “IRS: We Made A Mistake Valuing Michael Jackson’s Estate,” James Novack, Oct. 3, 2014