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This study outlines several novel elements of the law of succession, which were introduced by the new Civil Code of Romania, and compares them to earlier rules set forth by the Romanian Civil Code of 1864. A brief historical overview of Romanian civil law in general, and the law of succession in particular, is provided. Subsequently some of the issues raised by the legal literature relating to this field are examined. Among them are the opening of the estate, the prerequisites for succession, and disqualifying factors, such as unworthiness. Representation per stirpes, the rights of the surviving spouse over the estate, and the partially repealed prohibition of fideicommissary substitution are examined in more detail. For the sake of comparison, reference is made to the rules of succession contained in the new Hungarian Civil Code (as the Hungarian recodification of civil law largely coincided with that of Romanian civil law), in order to elicit the common concerns of the two legislators.
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Other codes of civil law were taken into consideration during its codification, primarily the codes of Belgium and the Swiss Canton of Geneva, but some influences from the—then ongoing—Italian codification can also be discovered.
The Romanian legislator strayed from the French model under two other aspects. The “poor widow” was instituted as a usufructuary for a share of the estate equal to that of the descendants. If there was only one descendant, the widow’s share would be 1/3 parts. If only collateral relatives inherited the deceased, the widow would in turn inherit 1/4 of the estate as property. A right to alimony, for the duration of one year, to the benefit of the widow was also instituted. Both provisions had their roots in the code of Calimach, adopted in the mid-19th century.
This provision was repealed by Act 3581/1921 which instituted the progressive inheritance tax. According to the new rules only inheritors of the fourth degree at most, or the surviving spouse could inherit, the latter considered by judicial practice as an inheritor of the fifth degree.
This order of topics differs from that the Civil Code of Québec, because—perhaps out of fidelity to the former institutio system—the Romanian legislator opted to place provisions of property law into “Book III” (as opposed to Book IV) of the Code, thereby inverting the order used in the Québec model, and more closely following the previous order of topics.
The term “inheritance” is used deliberately in this context instead of “succession” due to the language employed by the new Civil Code.
Such a context exists when referring to successive owners of an item which was resold several times, the current owner being defined in Romanian legal jargon as the “ successor” of the previous one.
The obligation to return what they inherited is however limited to the amount by which the assets exceeded the liabilities in the inheritance which they collected from the first de cuius by virtue of representation.
This right carried a minimal duration of one year unless the other heirs provided the spouse with an equivalent and suitable residence or the surviving spouse remarried. The residence could not be partitioned before the expiration of this period.
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- Law of Succession in the New Romanian Civil Code
- Chapter 15
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