The Evolution of Women's Rights in Inheritance

51 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2008 Last revised: 8 Nov 2010

See all articles by Kristine S. Knaplund

Kristine S. Knaplund

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law


This article presents the research results of an extensive examination of 1893 Los Angeles County probate records, which are the earliest such records still remaining in the Los Angeles County Archives. This research was undertaken to determine what effect the 1861 California Married Women's Property Act, together with subsequent changes in California probate law that were implemented throughout the latter half of the 19th century, had on testate and intestate succession of women's property. The article first provides historical background information about Los Angeles as it was 1893 (including population figures, the racial and gender makeup of the inhabitants, issues related to communication, migration, and technology, and a snapshot of California probate law at the time). It then gives a brief factual overview of each of the decedents whose records were studied, followed by an analysis of testate distribution patterns (with particular attention to differences between male and female decedents). Finally, it provides additional information about so-called problem wills - those which gave rise to will contests and other litigation.

Keywords: women, inheritance, probate, wills, testamentary, California

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

Knaplund, Kristine S., The Evolution of Women's Rights in Inheritance. Hastings Women's Law Journal, v. 19, p. 3, 2008, Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008/6, Available at SSRN:

Kristine S. Knaplund (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - Rick J. Caruso School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

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