Feminist Legal Studies

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 181–197 | Cite as

Complicating Kinship and Inheritance: Older Lesbians’ and Gay Men’s Will-Writing in England

  • Sue Westwood


This article complicates the idea that lesbian and gay kinship is based primarily on friendship, voluntarism and being free from duty and obligation. It also offers a more nuanced understanding of wills as a rich source of evidence for making claims about kinship, family and relationships. It analyses conversations about will-writing with fifteen older lesbians and gay men, taken from interviews which formed part of a wider socio-legal study on the intersection of ageing, gender and sexuality (Westwood in Ageing, Gender and Sexuality: equality in later life. PhD thesis, School of Law, University of Keele, UK, 2015). The analysis identifies a wide range of kinship formations and composition going beyond “family of choice” narratives, and also both connections and disconnections between ties of love and affection and disposal of assets in wills. Participants’ will-writing reflected four types of prioritisation: prioritising children; prioritising friends; prioritising siblings; mixed priorities. In contrast with accounts of “families of choice” as being duty-free, a sense of duty, especially towards biological family members, was evident in a number of interviews. I suggest that wills can sometimes be a rich source of evidence about kinship, but only when analysis takes into account the complexities and contingencies which can be involved.


Lesbian Gay Kinship Family Relationships Wills 



My sincere thanks go to the anonymous reviewers and editors for extensive feedback on an earlier draft of this article, and to Ruth Fletcher and Rosie Harding for their excellent supervision of my Ph.D. research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Research on Ageing and Gender (CRAG)University of SurreyGuildfordUK

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