The right of an individual to bequeath his property at death to designated persons existed throughout the Middle Ages. This right, however, like the right of private property, was subject to certain regulations and restrictions of a customary and legal sort. Among the barbarians egalitarian inheritance seems to have been the rule, but in feudal times primogeniture and entail became common, though not universal. These latter two practices were regarded as necessary for the descent of a fief intact in a given family. Occasionally the youngest instead of the oldest son inherited. Inheritance of property was subject to the exaction of heriot and relief, exactions which were sometimes burdensome. The holdings of a villein might also revert to the lord in case the former died without direct heirs under his roof. For materials on taxes, dues, and fees relating to inheritance, consult especially documents contained in Part VI.
The inheritance of land under the barbarians would mean the inheritance of allodial land (freehold land), and in addition there was inheritance of movables. Among some, women could inherit land equally with men, and in most cases all the children shared in the division of paternal property, even the illegitimate children being included; but the Salic Law says that women may not succeed to land. These laws were mainly codified or amended after the invasions, and represent a fairly settled state of affairs in Western Europe.
Source: M. G. H., Legum, Tome V, p. 240, R. Sohm, Ed. ( Hanover, 1875-1889). -- About A.D. 450.