Family and Inheritance Law

Finnish law is based on a civil law system, where legislative statutes are the primary source of law. This also holds true with regard to family and inheritance law. Most questions are regulated in statutory laws. These laws, however, are separate and partly independent enactments and do not form a coherent codification. Precedents of the Supreme Court are important as interpretations of the statutory law. Also travaux préparatoires of the statutes have a significant role in the interpretation.

Family and inheritance law is a part of private law. However, the values behind family law differ considerably from those of property law. Values such as solidarity, protection of the weaker party, and promotion of the best interests of the child are typical behind family law. Inheritance law reflects more closely the values of property law. However, many restrictions as to the disposal of one’s property mortis causa have been set up in order to protect the interests of the deceased’s family.

Family law can be divided into various subparts. A very important part concerns the rights and duties of individuals in such partnerships as marriage, registered partnerships, and cohabitations. Child law, which has experienced a very rapid development during the recent decades, covers such issues as parentage, parental responsibility, adoption, and child maintenance. Guardianship law, including enduring powers of attorney, concerns the protection of vulnerable adults. In the Finnish legal system, also the protection of minors in economic questions is considered to belong to the area of guardianship law.

International family law is a branch of private international law. At the University of Turku, it is studied within the context of substantial family and inheritance law.

Teaching is, in principle, given in all of these areas, however, taking into account the limited resources. As regards undergraduate teaching, a slight emphasis lies on questions concerning marriage and other partnerships as well as inheritance.

At this time, the research in family and inheritance law is mainly focused on questions relating to international family and inheritance law.