There is a distinct lack of empirical research in the area of inheritance law. Domestically, inheritance law is the province of fifty different states. Thus, conducting an empirical study of testamentary patterns is a painstaking process that requires fieldwork in multiple probate courts, often consisting of a tedious review of individual probate court case files or records. And among the studies that have been done over the years, few have focused on the role of gender in our field. That gap is the focus on Daphna Hacker’s new article, The Gendered Dimensions of Inheritance: Empirical Food for Legal Thought, in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, a peer-edited, peer-refereed, interdisciplinary journal. Hacker is an Assistant Professor at the Buchman Faculty of Law, Tel Aviv University where she is also a faculty member in the NCJW Women and Gender Studies Program.
In her article, Hacker identifies four historical trends which have created the conditions under which women may exercise broader freedom to bequeath property at death. These include laws which allowed women to own property in their own right, the abolition of rules that prevented women from inheriting property, the enactment of laws allowing women to be full participants in the labor force and the trend toward recognition of marital property rights in both spouses. After identifying these trends, Hacker poses the following questions which empirical research could help us answer if it were more widely conducted: Do women take full advantage of this power to bequeath property? Do they use this power to bequeath wealth as they wish? Are there gendered dimensions to intestate succession? And are there differences between the structure and content of men and women’s wills? Continue reading "Testation, Empiricism and Gender Equality"