Inheritance law in an aging society

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Hill, Gretchen J.

Journal of aging & social policy. 1995; 7(1): 57-83.


An exploratory analysis of states' inheritance law changes between 1961 and 1990 was conducted in order to discern major trends and their implications for older families. Results suggested that states were modifying their laws in ways similar to suggestions of the law community's Uniform Probate Code, with about one third of the states adopting the Code itself. Consequently, inheritance law has become less traditional and paternalistic and more like "facilitative law," that is, flexible, accommodating, and supportive of family autonomy and decisionmaking authority. These changes and new laws that simplify procedures, protect the dependent and vulnerable, treat marital property more like community property, recognize variant family forms, and enable extrafamilial bequests, may serve to minimize family disruption, conserve resources, and allow families to tailor property divisions and procedures to particular needs and wishes. An impact study is proposed for disclosing the actual effects on inheritance law reforms. Also, while trends observed in this study were fairly evident, states' adoption of new laws was uneven and selective, inviting continuing trend analyses and further research into the reasons for interstate variation.

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