Will-Substitutes from a Comparative Perspective

Event date
27 - 28 March
Event time
00:00 - 00:00
Oxford week
Lady Margaret Hall

Organisers: Professor Alexandra Braun and Professor Anne Röthel


In the course of the past decades, more and more property has passed on death in ways other than by will or intestacy rules. In other words, property is increasingly transmitted through so-called ‘will-substitutes’, such as, for instance, joint bank accounts, trusts, life insurance policies and pension schemes. Among the reasons for this count not only tax considerations but, for instance, also the desire to avoid probate and to speed up the transfer on death.

This development questions the role and the scope succession law rules are having in the transfer of wealth, as many of these mechanisms are not subject to the same policy driven rules applicable to wills. Indeed, they do not usually comply with formality requirements necessary for wills, nor do rules concerning the construction or revocation of wills normally apply to these mechanisms. What is more, since much of the wealth disposed of in this way does not fall into the estate administered by the personal representative, the use of will-substitutes has an important impact both on creditors and potential claimants under the family provision legislation.

In the US, will-substitutes have gained considerable attention by legal scholars and law-makers, and the drafters of the Uniform Probate Code and the Property Restatement have tried to accommodate them within the law of donative transfers, by preventing, for instance, the use of non-probate transfers to defeat creditors’ claims. Unfortunately, outside the US, will-substitutes have been largely neglected, so that little is known about the instruments used in practice, the rationale behind them and their implication for the functioning of succession rules.

The objective of this conference is to provide a comparative investigation of the transfer of wealth on death other than by will and intestacy rules across both common and civil law jurisdictions. Its aim is to advance the understanding of the scale of the phenomenon, of the mechanisms usually employed, as well of the reasons why people transfer their wealth through alternative means. It will provide a unique platform for exchanging views not only on how legal systems respond to the use of will-substitutes and on what tensions they give rise to with policy considerations underpinning succession law, but also for developing ideas about how to tackle this phenomenon, which is gaining increasing relevance.


The event is supported by a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant awarded by the British Academy.


The conference is accredited with 10 CPD hours by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and for barristers at the Bar of England and Wales.



Professor Alexandra Braun (University of Oxford)

Professor Reinhard Bork (University of Hamburg)

Dr Dan Carr (University of Edinburgh)

Professor Gregor Christandl (University of Innsbruck)

Professor Anatol Dutta (University of Regensburg)

Professor Thomas Gallanis (University of Iowa)

Professor Jonathan Herring (University of Oxford)

Professor Dominique Jakob (University of Zürich)

Professor Susanne Kalss (Vienna University of Economics and Business)

Professor Paul Matthews (King’s College London)

Professor Nicola Peart (University of Otago)

Professor Cécile Pérès (Université de Paris II Panthéon Assas)

Professor Anne Röthel (Bucerius Law School, Hamburg)

Professor Martin Schauer (University of Vienna)

Professor Lionel Smith (McGill University)

Also present will be Professor George Gretton (University of Edinburgh), Professor Reinhard Zimmermann (Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, Hamburg) and Professor Elizabeth Cooke (English Law Commission).

Please click here to see the full programme



Registration fees: 

The conference registration fee includes lunch and refreshments on both days as well as any materials distributed before or during the conference.

Academics from outside Oxford University: £80.00

Non-academics: £150.00

Reduced fee for full-time registered students from Universities outside Oxford: £50.00


Please register here for the conference

Staff and students of Oxford University register here


Conference Dinner and Accommodation:

The conference dinner will be held in Lady Margaret Hall on 27 March. The cost is £55.00 (attendance is optional)

Accommodation in Lady Margaret Hall (the same College as the conference venue) is available to conference participants on 26, 27 and 28 March (subject to availability). Please note however that availability is limited so early booking is recommended. The cost of the en-suite room (including breakfast) is £73.00 per night.

Please book the conference dinner and accommodation using the general conference registration facility above


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