Complicating Kinship and Inheritance: Older Lesbians’ and Gay Men’s Will-Writing in England
This article complicates the idea that lesbian and gay kinship is based primarily on friendship, voluntarism and being free from duty and obligation. It also offers a more nuanced understanding of wills as a rich source of evidence for making claims about kinship, family and relationships. It analyses conversations about will-writing with fifteen older lesbians and gay men, taken from interviews which formed part of a wider socio-legal study on the intersection of ageing, gender and sexuality (Westwood in Ageing, Gender and Sexuality: equality in later life. PhD thesis, School of Law, University of Keele, UK, 2015). The analysis identifies a wide range of kinship formations and composition going beyond “family of choice” narratives, and also both connections and disconnections between ties of love and affection and disposal of assets in wills. Participants’ will-writing reflected four types of prioritisation: prioritising children; prioritising friends; prioritising siblings; mixed priorities. In contrast with accounts of “families of choice” as being duty-free, a sense of duty, especially towards biological family members, was evident in a number of interviews. I suggest that wills can sometimes be a rich source of evidence about kinship, but only when analysis takes into account the complexities and contingencies which can be involved.
KeywordsLesbian Gay Kinship Family Relationships Wills
My sincere thanks go to the anonymous reviewers and editors for extensive feedback on an earlier draft of this article, and to Ruth Fletcher and Rosie Harding for their excellent supervision of my Ph.D. research.
- Clarke, Victoria. 2005. Feminist perspectives on lesbian parenting: A review of the literature 1972–2002. Psychology of Women Section Review 7(2): 11–23.Google Scholar
- Cronin, Ann, and Andrew King. 2014. Only connect? Older lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults and social capital. Ageing and Society 34(2): 258–279.Google Scholar
- Delgado, Richard, and Jean Stefancic. 2012. Critical race theory: An introduction, 2nd ed. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
- Finch, Janet, and Jennifer Mason. 2000. Passing on: Kinship and inheritance in England. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Grabham, Emily, Davina Cooper, Jane Krishnadas, and Didi Herman (eds.). 2008. Intersectionality and beyond: Law, power and the politics of location. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Grossman, Arnold. 2008. Conducting research among older lesbian, gay and bisexual adults. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, 20: 51–67.Google Scholar
- Guasp, Avril. 2011. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people in later life. London: Stonewall.Google Scholar
- Harding, Rosie. 2011. Regulating sexuality: Legal consciousness in lesbian and gay lives. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Humphrey, Alun, et al. 2010. Inheritance and the family: Attitudes to will-making and intestacy. London: National Centre for Social Research, Kings College, London.Google Scholar
- Kerridge, Roger. 2011. Freedom of testation in England and wales. In The law of succession: Testamentary freedom, European perspectives, ed. M. Anderson, and E. Arroyo I Amayuelas, 129–154. Groningen: Europa Law Publishing.Google Scholar
- Knocker, Sally, et al. 2012. Opening doors and opening minds: Sharing one project’s experience of successful community engagement. In Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ageing: biographical approaches for inclusive care and support, ed. Richard Ward, Ian Rivers, and Mike Sutherland, 150–164. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
- Monk, Daniel. 2014a. Writing (gay and lesbian) wills. Oñati Socio-legal Series 4(2): 306–322.Google Scholar
- Morrell, Gareth, Matt Bernard, and Robin Legard. 2009. The law of intestate succession: Exploring attitudes among non-traditional families final report [online]. London: NATCEN. Accessible at: http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/docs/law_of_intestate_succession_research.pdf. Accessed 26 December 2014.
- Richardson, Diane, and Surya Monro. 2012. Sexuality, equality and diversity. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Taylor, Yvette. 2013. The tie that binds: Intimacy, class and sexuality. In Mapping intimacies: Relations, exchanges and affects, ed. Jamie Hekert, and Tam Sanger, 15–34. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Weston, Kath. 1991. Families we choose. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Westwood, Sue. 2015. Ageing, gender and sexuality: Equality in later life. PhD thesis, School of Law, University of Keele, UK. Available at http://grai.org.au/sites/default/files/library/Westwood%202014_Dissertation_Full_Draft_FF.pdf. Accessed 1 June 2015.