See also Biological inheritance and Inheritance (computer science)
Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, and obligations upon the death of an individual. It has long played an extremely important role in human societies.
Both anthropology and sociology have made detailed studies in this area. Many cultures will have either patrilineal, also known as gavelkind, where only male children can inherit. Some cultures also employ matrilineal succession only passing property along the female line. Even more radical than patrelinial succession is the practice of primogeniture whereby all property goes to the eldest child, or often the eldest son. Conversly there are also systems where eveythng is left to the youngest child. Most modern states employ partible inheritance, whereby every child inherits equally. Many also have inheritance taxes, whereby a portion of any estate goes to the government.
Employing differing forms of succession can effect many areas of society. Gender roles are profoundly affected by traditional inheritance laws. Primogeniture has the effect of keeping large estates united and thus perpetuating a single elite. With partible inheritance large estates are slowly divided among many descendants and great wealth is eventualyl diluted.