No. The right to renounce one’s inheritance is universally recognized throughout the world. In most cases heirs renounce their inheritance in order to avoid unwanted expenses, responsibilities, or debts that are associated with the estate. A review of literature on the issue of renunciation found that the right to renounce a right to inherit property is an important safeguard against unwanted debt in France1, Germany2, Lithuania3, Italy4, the Czech Republic5, Spain6, all of Latin America7, Burkina Faso and India8, Israel and Turkey9, Tunisia10, Jordan11, and many other countries.
The majority of countries that have addressed renunciation have done so by employing procedural safeguards. Many of these are countries where Islamic law is recognized as the formal law of the land, but customary law, which is often more restrictive for women than Islamic law, is also practiced.
The courts that administer the division of inheritance in Palestine have introduced procedures to protect women’s inheritance rights and address social pressures on women to renounce their rights. Under that law, acts to renounce rights must be registered and witnessed. The inheritance process also mandates periods for reflection to safeguard, women from urgent family and social pressure. Where the inheritance of land is concerned, the law requires that women must first register their rights before they may renounce them.
Similarly, in Jordan, amendments to the Personal Status Code in 2010 led to an instruction to offer protection to women’s inheritance rights. The instruction provides a three-month period for reflection after the division of inheritance rights during which heirs cannot renounce rights, except in special circumstances. If a woman would like to renounce her inheritance rights after that time, the court must first explain to her the consequences of the renunciation and, in the case of immovable property such as land, the property must first be registered in the name of the heirs before it can be renounced and transferred.12
In Italy, a public notice of renunciation is required. When a successor renounces her inheritance, she must give public notice of her refusal before a Notary Public or a public officer, since the act of renouncing an inheritance cannot be made in a private document.13
In many Arabic countries, land inherited by women can be exchanged or renounced for cash.14
1 Rollot, Catherine, 2011. “Death & Debt: More French Heirs Renounce Succession of Departed, Indebted Parents.”
2 Siegwart, Holgar, 2013. “How to Disclaim an Inheritance in Germany.”
3 Government of Lithuania, 2001. The Law of Succession.
4 Italian Inheritance.
5 Government of Czech Republic, Civil Code, Articles 463-468.
6 Walton, Clifford Stevens, 2003. The Civil Law in Spain and Spanish America.
7 Diana Deere, Carmen and Magdalena Leon, 2001. Empowering Women: Land and Property Rights in Latin America.
8 FAO. Women’s Rights to Land and Other Natural Resources.
9 Layis, Aharon. Women and Islamic Law in a Non-Muslim State.
10 Ben Salem, Lilia. Tunisia, in Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress Amid Resistance, ed. Sanja Kelly and Julia Breslin (New York, NY: Freedom House; Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010).
11 World Bank, 2013. Jordan Country Gender Assessment. Economic Participation, Agency And Access To Justice In Jordan; Poverty Reduction And Economic Management Department, Middle East And North Africa.
13 Italian Inheritance.
14 Sait, M Siraj and Tempra, Ombretta, 2015. Land Fragmentation in Muslim Communities: Traditional Challenges And Innovative Consolidation Approaches, University Of East London, United Kingdom.