Inheritance Law and the Evolving Family

Ralph C. Brashier
Book Cover

PB: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-222-5
Publication: Jan 04

HC: $81.50
EAN: 978-1-59213-221-8
Publication: Jan 04

Ebook: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-59213-783-1

272 pages
6 x 9

How inheritance law has failed to recognize the modern family


Nontraditional families are today an important part of American family life. Yet when a loved one dies, our inheritance laws are often stingy even towards survivors in the nuclear family. With humor, enthusiasm, and a bit of righteous outrage, Ralph C. Brashier explores how probate laws ignore gender roles and marital contributions of the spouse, often to the detriment of the surviving widow; how probate laws pretend that unmarried couples—particularly gay and lesbian ones—do not exist; how probate laws allow a parent to disinherit even the neediest child; and how probate laws for nonmarital children, adopted children, and children born of surrogacy or other forms of assisted reproductive technology are in flux or simply don't exist. A thoughtful examination of the current state of probate law and the inability of legislators to recognize and provide for the broad range of families in America today, this book will be read by those with an interest in the relationship between families and the law across a wide range of academic disciplines.


"Inheritance Law and the Evolving Family is a very important book, perhaps an essential one for family scholars and professionals who are trying to devise a sound course through the legal maze created by new family commitments and dissolutions. This clearly written, carefully argued, and incredibly informative book is my newest essential reference Bible and I'm trying to learn it verse by verse. I would recommend it to friends, colleagues and anyone trying to understand our changing family systems and the way our institutions and laws do, and don't, support them." Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Washington

"This well-documented study examines the role of inheritance in non-traditional family forms. Clearly presented is the role of probate law in influencing the life ways of these varied family forms. The author demonstrates that current inheritance laws developed over historic times with the focus on the nuclear family that is no longer the norm.... This book will be of tremendous value to family researchers, psychologists, sociologists, lawyers, the legal system and social practitioners." Marvin B. Sussman, Ph.D.

"This is an enlightening survey of American inheritance laws. Brashier outlines how our laws differ in troubling ways from common features of inheritance laws in other countries and also notes how our laws have largely not yet adapted to unmarried partner relationships. He makes sensible recommendations about how our laws should be changed." J. Thomas Oldham, John H. Freeman Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center

"(A)n engaging read: clear, concise, with an easy flow. It is also very informative, but conspicuously uncluttered. Most importantly, its message is timely and should be heeded." Estate Planning

"It would make an excellent addition to law firm, academic and public law library collections." Legal Information ALERT

"Brashier crams a tremendous amount of well-cited material into this brief, clearly written volume." Law & Politics Book Review

"...comprehensive discussion of whether a parent-child relationship exists for inheritance purposes with regard to nonmarital children, adopted children, and children of reproductive technologies, and also the rights of spouses and unmarried cohabitants." Wills, Trusts, and Estates

"In this informative book, Brashier presents a fascinating analysis of how the changing structure of the family is impacting inheritance laws.... Brashier addresses controversial issues in an informed, articulate and thoughtful manner.... It is (a) fine addition to the library of anyone wishing to provide financially for their families." The Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare

"Brashier's book skillfully and engagingly shows how inheritance laws across the fifty United States have not kept up with changes in American family life... Brashier's ability to convey the key principles behind an almost bewildering array of examples makes this book potentially quite valuable to economists who seek a better understanding of inheritance law, the transfer of wealth in the US, and the law's impact on the lives of women, men, and children." Feminist Economics

Table of Contents

1. Spouses
2. Unmarried Cohabitants
3. Children
4. Paternity
5. Adoption
6. Assisted Reproduction
Final Thoughts: Where from Here?

About the Author(s)

Ralph C. Brashier is the Cecil C. Humphreys Professor of Law at the University of Memphis School of Law. He was a co-author of the "Keeping Current" column in the American Bar Association's Probate and Property magazine, and continues to serve as a contributing editor. In addition to penning a number of law review articles on the subject of inheritance law, he serves as a member of the Tennessee Uniform Probate Code Commission and is a former editor-in-chief of the Mississippi Law Journal.


In the Series

  • Gender, Family, and the Law edited by D. Kelly Weisberg

    Gender, Family, and the Law, edited by D. Kelly Weisberg, aims to present a rich and diverse collection of books from social science and legal perspectives on topics relevant to gender, the family, and public policy. It attempts to shed light on the complex nature of public regulation of the private family by addressing the law's response to the changing nature of men's and women's roles and the evolution of the family.