Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Patrimony Definition:

Civil law: the aggregate of things owned by a person.

Related Terms: Property, Estate

Initially, from the Roman law (patrimonium and in French, la patrimoine), and limited to things which may be inherited but now taken to include all a person's assets - immovables (real property) or movables (personal property).

In Re Howard Marshall, Justice Knoll of the Louisiana Supreme Court wrote:

"Under Louisiana (civil) law, the patrimony is a coherent mass of existing or potential rights and liabilities attached to a person for the satisfaction of his economic needs. The patrimony, as a universality of rights and obligations, is ordinarily attached to a person until termination of personality."

Further, in Creech, Justice Barham wrote:

"Patrimony is the total mass of existing or potential rights and liabilities attached to a person for the satisfaction of his economic needs.

"Patrimony is always attached to a natural or juridical person. A husband has a patrimony; the wife has a patrimony....

"In theory, the patrimony of a debtor is the totality of his assets and liabilities which are susceptible of pecuniary evaluation. As a practical matter, the debtor's patrimony consists of assets which are subject to execution for the benefit of a creditor."

§2 of the 2010 Quebec Civil Code:

"Every person has a patrimony."

The common law equivalent would be estate. A person's estate is the aggregate of things over which he or she may assert ownership, and which is passed on at their death, to their lawful heirs. Similarly, civil law defines that estate as patrimony. In French civil law, la patrimoine refers to the estate, generally of a decedent (person deceased) or in terms of the management of the assets of a person alive but to whom the law does not allow self-management (eg. a child or an adult in need of guardianship).

John Bouvier's dictionary re patrimony:

"Any kind of property ... That which is capable of being inherited. Things capable of being possessed by a single person exclusively of all others...."


  • Civil Code of Québec, S.Q. 1991, c. 64
  • Creech v. Capitol Mack, Inc., 287 So. 2d 497 (1973, Louisiana Supreme Court)
  • In re Howard Marshall Char. Remainder Annuity Trust, 709 So. 2d 662 (1998)

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