L’évolution de la protection du conjoint survivant en droit français et en droit lituanien
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The article analyses, in a comparative perspective, the phenomenon of the evolution of the protection of surviving spouse’s inheritance rights in France and Lithuania, the two legal systems historically having some points of interaction. The protection of the surviving spouse is one of the major preoccupations of married couples of today, the couple occupying a central role within the contemporary family. Comparative analysis reveals certain points of convergence between these two legal systems inasmuch the surviving spouse is considered by both legislations as an heir ab intestat and whose protection over the years has been considerably strengthened. The surviving spouse is called to inherit alongside with the heirs of the first or second order and is entitled to the proportions in assets that have not ceased to increase. Lithuanian law seems to have been innovative at an earlier stage than French law, as it is only in the beginning of the 21st century that significant reforms were carried out in this area of law in France. Analysis has also revealed apparent differences in the scope of protection of the surviving spouse, both in regards to the protection provided by law (statutory protection), as well as protection organised by the will of the spouses (voluntary protection). In some respects the statutory protection is more extensive in France (for example, complementary statutory rights of the spouse in regards to the dwelling place or the quality of héritier réservataire) and the instruments of this protection seem to be more varied (for example, the possibility for the spouses to organise their matrimonial regime by inserting specific clauses into the nuptial contract, mechanisms outside the nuptial contracts, such as donations, wills or life insurance contracts). However, this protection might appear to be more extensive under Lithuanian law as far as the voluntary protection is concerned taking into account the introduction, by the new Lithuanian Civil Code of 2000, of the joint will of spouses under which the whole property of the deceased spouse shall be inherited by the surviving spouse (except the mandatory share of succession). The article raises some doubts as to the desirability or even feasibility of aligning the two models of protection given the fact that each of the two countries has its own history and traditions. Nevertheless, a proposition resurges from the analysis in regard to the possible improvement of the protection of the rights to the dwelling place of the surviving spouse under Lithuanian law. Some elements from the existing French model could be transposed given that the dwelling place is an essential family element providing some stability for the surviving spouse.
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