A LEGACY IN THE ROMAN LAW
A notion of a legacy did not exist in the archaic Roman law as a homogenous concept of law and it developed as late as in the pre-classical Roman law. Even then, however, only particular types of legacies, rather than their general concept, were defined. Nevertheless, one may say that a legacy was a civil law instrument by means of which a testator left a certain economic benefit to a particular person, not making him\her an inheritor.
At the beginning there were four basic types of legacy in the Roman law: legatum per vindicationem, legatum per praeceptionem, legatum per damnationem and legatum sinendi modo. The first two types had an effect of a disposition while the two latter ones of an obligation only. In sources there also exist two other types: legatum optionis and legatum partitionis. This last mentioned is similar to a later established concept of a fideicommissum, an informal legacy, which became actionable in the times of the Emperor August.
Already in the ancient times one may observe a decrease in the significance of these types of legacy, the effects of which directly related to the ownership of objects (legatum per vindicationem and legatum per praeceptioneni).They were connected with the notion o f an ownership according to ius civile and formal means of transferring the ownership. They lost its
significance when - beside the oldest civil law - praetorian law and emperors’ constitutions appeared and when the ownership was standardised. After the issuance of senatusconsultum Neronianum in the 1st century AD it became possible to retain the legal effectiveness of the legacies which until then were considered invalid due to a failure to preserve an appropriate form; an ex /^ con version took place. It resulted most probably in converting invalid legacies into legatum per damnationem.
In the subsequent centuries, emperors’ constitutions led to a harmonisation o f the concept of legacy (while the division between the legacy having an effect of a disposition and an obligation was still preserved), and later on to equalisation in the legal effect of formal and informal legacies. The most important regulations were: the constitution of the Emperor Constantinus dated 339 AD, which abolished the requirement of solemnitas verbum and two constitutions of the Emperor Iustinianus - the first - dated 529 AD - introduced an identical legal nature of all legacies, the other - dated 531 AD - completely equalised legacies with fideicommissa.