Family Protection in the Law of Succession: The Policy Puzzle

57 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2019 Last revised: 28 Sep 2019

See all articles by Richard F. Storrow

Richard F. Storrow

City University of New York School of Law

Date Written: 2018


To promote the protection of families, succession law diminishes the power of testation in a variety of ways that shield surviving spouses and children from disinheritance. This article conducts a survey of the law in the fifty states, five main territories, and the District of Columbia and uncovers a remarkable diversity of family-protection provisions. Less apparent than the substance of the provisions themselves are the policies behind them. In a comprehensive study, this article concludes that family-protection provisions seek to prevent decedents from using their testamentary freedom in ways that impoverish those who are dependent upon them or that work unfairness against family members who have contributed in important ways to the accumulation of their wealth. In addition to these concerns is a notable ambivalence about the extent to which family protection statutes should undercut the expectations of those who have been promised a share of a decedent’s estate.

Keywords: wills, intestacy, family protection, elective share, pretermitted child, family allowance, property set-asides, homestead exemption, homestead allowance, exempt property, exempt personalty

Suggested Citation

Storrow, Richard F., Family Protection in the Law of Succession: The Policy Puzzle (2018). Northeastern University Law Review, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2018, Available at SSRN:

Richard F. Storrow (Contact Author)

City University of New York School of Law ( email )

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