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Inheritance, patrimonial rights and blended families: confronting past and present

Friday, 23 November, 2012 - 15:00
Faculty: Law and Criminology
Academy Palace (Rubenszaal)
Hertogsstraat 1 - 1000 Brussel
Department of Interdisciplinary Legal Studies, VUB, Department of Private and Economic Law, VUB, Ghent Legal History Institute, KVAB
02/550 23 23
Registration:blendedfamilies2012@gmail.com (free entrance, maximum 40 persons)

Nowadays the newly composed or blended family is a widespread phenomenon. Nonetheless, it still defies jurists, and particularly with regard to the legal relationship between children from a former relationship on the one hand side, and the new partner of their parent and his/her siblings on the other. The transition of (parts of) an estate from one family to the next and the patrimonial rights of members of former families vis-à-vis those of new ones, are crucial issues.

Since 1981, in Belgium, the inheritance estate, including the personal properties and the part of the matrimonial community pertaining to the deceased, is not distributed and remains under usufruct for the benefit of the surviving spouse if there are children. Even in case of a subsequent remarriage, these descendants remain entitled so-called ‘nude’ proprietors of the inheritance estate and they can query for a transformation of usufruct into ‘full’ ownership for parts of the inheritance. However, these rules do not apply in case of divorce or when another relationship than marriage between partners, having children, is ended and their communal properties are divided. Contractual arrangements often provide solutions. Nonetheless questions remain, for example as to whether it is still feasible to grant the surviving spouse extensive rights of usufruct as a principle by law, and whether more legal rights should be given to descendants in this respect.

The colloquium will confront historical examples and rules with those that are being applied today. Legal historians ill detail the context in which the mentioned norms existed and their consequences, for different places in continental estern Europe. Lawyers specializing in positive matrimonial property law, inheritance law and family law will shed light on the contents and lacunae in contemporary law and legal practice in Belgium and the Netherlands. The colloquium seeks to promote further research into these matters. It equally aims at reviving the tradition of legalhistorical arch into old family law (in the broad sense), which in the 1960s was vibrant at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, under the impetus of the late professor John Gilissen.