Inheritance, Law of

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Inheritance, Law of


the body of legal norms governing relations arising out of the transfer of the property of a deceased person to other persons. K. Marx described inheritance laws as a legal inference from the existing economic organization of society. In an exploitative society, inheritance law “gives the heir the right which the deceased person had during his life, specifically the right to acquire the products of the labor of others through the ownership of property” (K. Marx, in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed. vol. 16, p. 383). Under socialism, inheritance law aims at satisfying the personal needs of citizens and eliminates the possibility of exploiting the labor of others.

Inheritance law was elaborated in some detail in ancient Rome. A number of legal constructions and terms borrowed from Roman law by later legal systems continue to be applied today—for example, the distinction between inheritance according to statutes and under a will, the sequence for the recognition of heirs, and the compulsory share of inheritance for persons indicated by law.

In the USSR, inheritance law is part of civil law. After the Great October Socialist Revolution, a decree issued on Apr. 27, 1918, abolished inheritance of capitalist property and laid the foundation for inheritance of labor property. Only inheritance according to the statutes was permitted, and the range of heirs was quite narrow. The Civil Code of the RSFSR of 1922 introduced inheritance under a will. Subsequently, as socialist relationships became more firmly established and the standard of living rose, the limitation on the value of inherited property was abolished and the range of heirs, both statutory and under a will, was expanded. Under Article 10 of the Constitution of the USSR, the right to inherit personal property is protected by law. The procedure for inheritance is regulated by the Basic Principles of Civil Legislation of the USSR and Union Republics of 1961, the civil codes of the Union republics, statutes on the notary system, and instructions on the procedure for performing notary actions by state notary offices. The July 1, 1966, decree of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the USSR entitled On Court Practice in Cases of Inheritance facilitates the uniform application of the norms of inheritance law by courts.

In the other socialist countries, the law of inheritance basically rests on the same principles as in the USSR, and inheritance is regulated primarily by civil codes. In the capitalist countries of continental Europe, inheritance is generally regulated by civil codes. In Great Britain, the law of inheritance is not codified but is regulated by judicial precedent and individual laws. In the USA, every state has its own inheritance law, and legal precedent plays a significant part in settling questions of inheritance.


Gordon, M. V. Nasledovanie po zakonu i po zaveshchaniiu. Moscow, 1967.
Grazhdanskoe i torgovoe pravo kapitalisticheskikh gosudarstv. Edited by K. K. Iaichkov. Moscow, 1966. Chapter 29.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.