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Catholic Dictionary




As a title to ownership, it is the disposition of property after the death of the owner. Since property is intended not only for the good of the individual but of the family, the natural law requires that the family should be supported from the property of a deceased owner. If a person dies intestate, without declaring the heirs, the family has first claim on the property, and the civil law should reflect this primary responsibility. If there is a bequest, declaring the intention of the owner regarding his or her property to take effect at death, again one's natural heirs must be provided for. Beyond this, a person may make any disposal of his or her property that would have been legitimate when that person was alive. Bequest is an effective way that one can take care of friends and provide for the continuance of the work in which one was chiefly interested. Implied in inheritance, therefore, is the natural right to dispose of one's property not only during life but also after death.