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Fledføring – elder care and the protection of the interests of heirs in Danish medieval laws

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image of Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis / Revue d'Histoire du Droit / The Legal History Review

The Danish fledføring is a legal term referring to an institution which combined assistance to persons who, because of old age, illness or otherwise, were no longer able to provide for their own support, and the protection of their heirs' interests. During formal proceedings before the local court, the person in need would offer himself and all his property to his heirs, who would in return offer him food and shelter. The institution did not only entail material consequences regarding the property and the duty of maintenance, it also affected the legal status of the fledførte person, who lost all his personal rights and was placed under the guardianship of his heirs. Traditionally, the fledføring has been presented as an ancient form of care for the elderly. That view, however, should be questioned, for, arguably, the institution was more concerned about determining who was entitled in law to land and other property than about the care of those in need.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, Studiestræde 6, 1455 Copenhagen K, Denmark;, Email:


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