Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Inheritance Laws

Americans have become accustomed to the idea that thay can decide what happens to their money and property when they die.  If they want to give it all to one kid, or to a charity, they can do so.  Choosing how to dispose of one's assets is seen as a natural right.

But our idea of inheritance is actually quite rare.  In most of Europe, there are very strict laws about inheritance.  Most of your estate must be divided evenly between all children.  It is actually illegal to reward good children by giving them more, or to give most of your money to a charity.

It gets worse.  If you give money to a charity while you are alive, your heirs can have the courts force the charity to return the money to them.  This is, to my mind, absolutely insane.  Any law that takes money away from a charity, money that was freely given by the person who earned it, and hands it over to some spoiled rich kid who never did anything to earn it, is mind-bogglingly stupid.  It violates just about every concept of rights and justice that you can think of.

The European laws seem to be the result of a fundamentally flawed concept of human rights.  They believe that all children have the right to their parents' wealth, and that it is wrong for them to be denied it.  This imaginary 'right' results in a direct violation of the rights of the parents and the charities to their property.

The lesson here is that whenever you give people a 'right' to something that was produced by someone else, the result is always this kind of perversity.

One last thought: This might be a factor explaining the low birth rate in Europe.  I know I would be less likely to have kids if I knew that I would be forced to follow these laws.

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