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European Union dispute about inheritance rights of children

October 27th, 2009 by Joseph William Singer

Both Great Britain and the United States have long traditions of letting individuals  write wills to determine who owns their property when they die. Those laws are tempered by statutes protecting the rights of spouses to some portion of the decedent’s estate. But both countries allow parents to disinherit their children. See Estate of Max Feinberg, 2009 WL 3063395 (Ill. 2009)(lawful to refuse to leave property to grandchildren because they married non-Jews). However, most other countries in Europe consider it both remarkable and close to barbaric to allow parents to disinherit their children; indeed, in 26 of 27 European Union countries, a large part of the estate of the deceased is reserved in equal shares for surviving children. This difference has erupted into a dramatic conflict as the EU announced rules for distribution of property located in more than one EU country. Not only do the two sides have differing views of the appropriate distribution of  family estates but each side appears to view the other’s system as both shocking and unjust. There is an interesting report about the dispute in The Economist magazine. Charlemagne, Where there’s a will there’s a row, The Economist, Oct. 15, 2009.

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