Tidbits from Wills cramming
There are three theoretical positions on estates: (1) unrestricted right to devise/bequeath; (2) absolute intestacy (inheritance by operation of law); (3) escheat to the State (100% estate tax). In reality, most testamentary systems use a mix of all three. But in a show of hands, a crowd of law students supported the three theories as absolutes in 90-5-5 ratio, respectively.
At common law, children were responsible for supporting their parents. Per Social Security Act of 1933 [at 42 U.S.C. ¤ 1396a(a)(17)(D)], Congress has abrogated the common law duty of support.
Adoption is traditional in Roman law and nontraditional in Anglo-American common law. Britian didn't legalize adoption until 1925. Maryland and Texas were the first states to allow it, in 1850. The majority of states didn't follow suit until almost 1900.
"The right to receive property by devise or descent is not a natural right but a privilege granted by the state." Hall v. Vallandingham, 540 A.2d 1162
The grand defect of American law is its failure to charge losing plaintiff with attorney fees.
Ordinarily, today, in our enlightened age, children have no statutory protection against deliberate disinheritance. However, minor children in Louisiana still have an absolute right to forced share (legitime).
It appears that the trust as an institution owes its existence largely to the Franciscan poverty debates of c. 1300. At least, that's how trusts where introduced into Anglo-American law.