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Devolution of property on an heir or heirs upon the death of its owner. In civil law jurisdictions it is called succession. The concept depends on a common acceptance of the notion of private ownership of goods and property. Under some systems, land is considered communal property and rights to it are redistributed, rather than bequeathed, on the death of a community member. In many countries, a minimum portion of the decedent's estate must be assigned to the surviving spouse and often to the progeny as well. Intestacy laws, which govern the inheritance of estates whose distribution is not directed by a will, universally view kinship between the decedent and the beneficiary as a primary consideration. Inheritance usually entails payment of an inheritance tax. See alsoinheritance tax; intestate succession; probate.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on inheritance, visit Britannica.com.