The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd


  • Jack Goody
Reference work entry


Inheritance, in the strict sense, is the transmission of relatively exclusive rights at death. Such transmission is part of the wider process of the devolution of rights between or within the generations (eventually always between), and particularly between persons regarded as holders and heirs. Devolution continues throughout an individual’s life, involving him both as giver and as receiver, and entailing transfers inter vivos, between the living for education, marriage, housepurchase, etc. as well as the residuum at death. The connection between inheritance and earlier transfers is given explicit recognition in some customary systems of endowment of sons and daughters where what has already been received is deducted from the final share of the parental estate (as in the revision clause of the Paris–Orleans region from the 16th century). In the same way the trend in European and American tax laws, epitomized in the British Capital Transfer Tax, is to treat as a whole the transfers of property from an estate (in the case of an estate tax) or to one individual or donee (in the case of an inheritance tax).

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack Goody
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