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The Green Bag

ing a child a shilling, or even mentioning debar the heir who unlawfully causes the him at all, in order to disinherit him death of his ancestor from all share effectually. By some American statutes in his estate, and some courts have pretermitted children and their issue are reached this result by judicial legislation. allowed to take the same share as if Under the German Code, the heir-atthe testator had died intestate. This law or testamentary heir may be sub does not limit the disposing power or jected to forfeiture by judicial declara compel the testator to provide for any tion of unworthiness, if by wilful or child, but merely protects the child unlawful act he has caused or attempted against omission by reason of forget- to cause the death of the deceased; if fulness and oversight, which may arise by fraud or threats he has prevented in sickness and old age. his making or revoking, or compelled By the German Civil Code a testator him to make or revoke a will, or if he must appoint his issue or spouse as has forged any will. Under such cir successors to at least one-half of the cumstances, his right of inheritance natural and certain portion reserved is treated as if he had pre-deceased the to them as heirs-at-law, or disinherit testator. (Schuster, Principles of Ger them on some recognized ground of man Civil Law.) It is evident from these illustrations disinheritance. It is recognized that as the family of a man have claims upon how backward our law is as compared him while living so that he may be with that of other civilized countries. It is worth while to pause for a compelled to provide his wife and chil dren with the necessaries of life, so these moment and ask ourselves why the natural obligations do not cease with state should at all recognize the trans his death, and his power to disinherit mission of property on death, testate or his widow and surviving children is intestate, and what purposes our inheri tance laws should aim to subserve. accordingly limited. The demerit or lack of claim of a We are accustomed to conceive that man's kin are no more observed than ownership is permanent and perpetual, their needs by our law of inheritance. and that the privilege of inheritance As if to demonstrate how little of merit and testamentary disposition is part or public policy enters into the title of of the law of nature. You say to your the heir, it is held by most of our courts self, "I have a right of course to dispose that they cannot disregard the course as I see fit of what is mine, without of descent and distribution prescribed consulting any one else." Yet, as Blackstone points out, the by statute to divert the succession, even from those unworthy heirs who idea of absolute property forever in any have murdered their ancestors. Thus, one individual is a fiction. We are it is held that a son who murders his apt to mistake for a natural inherent father for the inheritance may take right what we find established by law both a legal and beneficial interest by or inveterate custom, and what may descent, and will be presented by the perhaps be handed down to us from a law with the fruits of his crime. {Car selfish, rude and semi-barbaric society. penters Estate, 170 Pa. State 203; It is recognized by practically all courts McAlister v. Fair, 72 Kan. 533; see that the privilege of inheritance or of also Note 3 L. R. A. (n. s.) 726.) A making wills is not a vested right which few states, however, by recent statutes, the state is compelled by the Constitu