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Primogeniture Defined


Primogeniture refers to the superior rights of a first born child, especially in terms of inheritance. In many locations throughout the world, this long practiced custom was actually written into the country's law. When parents dies, the entire estate was given to the family's eldest son. This practice was widespread throughout most of Europe, including in Britain, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, and Denmark.

In these locations, the first born son of deceased parents not only received his parents' estate, but also their wealth and any office or title held by his father. If the deceased had multiple children, the younger children were not provided with any type of inheritance, and where left to their own devices to support themselves. If the deceased did not have children, the estate was given to the eldest and closest male relative.

Primogeniture became a common practice in the original thirteen colonies of the United States, and persisted until the late 1700s. Today, this procedure is no longer practiced in the United States, and has also been entirely eliminated or altered in many other countries. For example, a number of countries, including Norway and Denmark, still distribute estates based upon seniority, but have eliminated the male preference.

Therefore, if the first born is a female, she will be permitted to inherit her parent's estate. More commonly, individuals create will before they die, which details how they want their estate distributed between their loved ones. Some places still practice male preferred primogeniture, however, this practice has largely died.

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