This paper explores the way family obligation and reciprocity are defined in law in France and England. Focusing on the areas of inheritance and financial support in relation to older people, it explores how these are contrasted and linked in the two societies. In France, families are legally obliged to support their kin through obligation alimentaire, but inheritance is secured by law within the family. In England by contrast there is no such legal obligation to support older relatives; nor is there any constraint on inheritance: testamentary freedom is the legal principle. The paper discusses the significance of these differences and assesses how far they are modified by the operation of the welfare state and by embedded assumptions about family relations. It sets the differences within the context of different discourses of law and social policy in the two countries.
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