The Worlds Legal Systems

January 15th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

The worlds legal systems are all very different but many laws are based on one of the oldest legal systems in the world, the UK legal system.

The UK is not actually one legal system but instead has three separate legal systems.

England and Wales has one legal system, Northern Ireland has it's own legal systems and Scotland has it's own legal system.

One are of the law that is fairly similar across all these legal systems is that of estate planning,wills and probate and contesting wills or last wills and testaments.

A good site that details how the UK law works in this area is

A good video that looks at the process of contesting a will after death can be found by clicking this link.

You also find that criminal law in many countries is at least based on the English legal system.

This is widely thought to be as a result of many countries were part of the historic British Empire and thus the core foundations of such legal systems as Indian and Australia were founded on English common law.

Detailed below are some examples


Country Description
Albania Albania The Civil Code of the Republic of Albania, 1991 [1]
Angola Angola Based on Portuguese civil law
Argentina Argentina The Spanish legal tradition had a great influence on the Civil Code of Argentina, basically a work of the Argentine jurist Dalmacio Vélez Sársfield, who dedicated five years of his life on this task. The Civil Code came into effect on 1 January 1871. Beyond the influence of the Spanish legal tradition, the Argentinian Civil Code was also inspired by the Draft of the Brazilian Civil Code, the Draft of the Spanish Civil Code of 1851, the Napoleonic code and the Chilean Civil Code. The sources of this Civil Code also include various theoretical legal works, mainly of the great French jurists of the 19th century. It was the first Civil Law that consciously adopted as its cornerstone the distinction between i. rights from obligations and ii. real property rights, thus distancing itself from the French model.
The Argentinian Civil Code was also in effect in Paraguay, as per a Paraguayan law of 1880, until the new Civil Code went in force in 1987.
During the second half of the 20th century, the German legal theory became increasingly influential in Argentina.
Andorra Andorra Courts apply the customary laws of Andorra, supplemented with Roman law and customary Catalan law.[4]
Armenia Armenia
Aruba Aruba Based on Dutch civil law
Austria Austria The Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (ABGB) of 1811
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan Based on German, French, Russian and traditional Azerbaijani Law
Belarus Belarus
Belgium Belgium The Napoleonic Code is still in use, although it is heavily modified (especially concerning family law)
Benin Benin
Bolivia Bolivia Influenced by the Napoleonic Code
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina Influenced by Austrian law. The Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) was a model for the Law on Obligations of 1978.
Brazil Brazil Based on Portuguese civil law
Bulgaria Bulgaria Civil Law system influenced by Germanic and Roman law systems
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso
Burundi Burundi
Chad Chad
China People's Republic of China civil law system; based on native customs and practices with Soviet and German influence
Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo Democratic Republic of the Congo Based on Belgian civil law
Ivory Coast Cote d'Ivoire
Cambodia Cambodia
Cape Verde Cape Verde Based on Portuguese civil law
Central African Republic Central African Republic
Chile Chile The Spanish legal tradition exercised an especially great influence on the civil code of Chile. On its turn, the Chilean civil code influenced to a large degree the drafting of the civil codes of other Latin-American states. For instance, the codes of Ecuador (1861) and Colombia (1873) constituted faithful reproductions of the Chilean code, but for very few exceptions. The compiler of the Civil Code of Chile, Venezuelan Andrés Bello, worked for its completion for almost 30 years, using elements, of the Spanish law on the one hand, and of other Western laws, especially of the French one, on the other. Indeed, it is noted that he consulted and used all of the codes that had been issued till then, starting from the era of Justinian.
The Civil Code came into effect on 1 January 1857. Its technique is regarded as perfect; it is distinguished for the clarity, logic and cohesiveness of its provisions. As mentioned by Arminjon, Nolde, and Wolff ('Traite de droit comparé', Paris, 1950–1952) Andrés Bello may be regarded as one of the great legislators of mankind. The influence of the Napoleonic code is great; it is observed however that e.g. in many provisions of property law, the solutions of the French code civil were put aside in favor of pure Roman law.
Colombia Colombia Civil code introduced in 1873. Nearly faithful reproduction of the Chilean civil code
Costa Rica Costa Rica First Civil Code (a part of the General Code or Carrillo Code) came into effect in 1841; its text was inspired by the South Peruvian Civil Code of Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz. The present Civil Code went into effect 1 January 1888, and was influenced by the Napoleonic Code and the Spanish Civil Code of 1889 (from its 1851 draft version).
Croatia Croatia Influenced by Austrian and Hungarian law. The Law on Obligations of 2005.
Cuba Cuba Influenced by Spanish and American law with large elements of Communist legal theory.
Czech Republic Czech Republic Descended from the Civil Code of the Austrian Empire (1811), influenced by German (1939–45) and Soviet (1947/68-89) legal codes during occupation periods, substantially reformed to remove Soviet influence and elements of socialist law after the Velvet Revolution (1989).
Denmark Denmark Scandinavian-German civil law
Dominican Republic Dominican Republic Based by the Napoleonic Code
Ecuador Ecuador Civil code introduced in 1861. Nearly faithful reproduction of the Chilean civil code
El Salvador El Salvador
Estonia Estonia Largely influenced by German civil law.
Finland Finland Civil law system based on Swedish law[5]
France France Based on the Napoleonic code (code civil of 1804)
Egypt Egypt
Equatorial Guinea Equatorial Guinea
Ethiopia Ethiopia
Gabon Gabon
Guinea Guinea based on French civil law system, customary law, and decree[5]
Guinea-Bissau Guinea-Bissau Based on Portuguese civil law
Georgia (country) Georgia
Germany Germany The Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch of 1900 ("BGB"). The BGB is influenced both by Roman and German law traditions.
Greece Greece The Greek civil code of 1946, highly influenced by traditional Roman law and the German civil code of 1900 (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch); the Greek civil code replaced the Byzantine–Roman civil law in effect in Greece since its independence (?????? ??????? ??? ?????????? ?????? ???????, Legal Provision of Eastern Mainland Greece, November 1821: '?? ?????????? ????? ??? ?????????? ?????????? ???????????? ??? ??????? ????? ???????? ???? ?? ????? ??? ??? ?????????? ?????? ??????', 'The Social [i.e. Civil] Laws of the Dear Departed Christian Emperors of Greece [referring to the Byzantine Emperors] alone are in effect at present in Eastern Mainland Greece')
Guatemala Guatemala Guatemala has had three Civil Codes: the first one from 1877, a new one introduced in 1933, and the one currently in force, which was passed in 1963. This Civil Code has suffered some reforms throughout the years, as well as a few derogations relating to areas which have subsequently been regulated by newer laws, such as the Code of Commerce and the Law of the National Registry of Persons. In general, it follows the tradition of the roman-French system of civil codification.
Regarding the theory of 'sources of law' in the Guatemalan legal system, the 'Ley del Organismo Judicial' recognizes 'the law' as the main legal source (in the sense of legislative texts), although it also establishes 'jurisprudence' as a complementary source. Although jurisprudence technically refers to judicial decisions in general, in practice it tends to be confused and identified with the concept of 'legal doctrine', which is a qualified series of identical resolutions in similar cases pronounced by higher courts (the Constitutional Court acting as a 'Tribunal de Amparo', and the Supreme Court acting as a 'Tribunal de Casación') whose theses become binding for lower courts.
Haiti Haiti Influenced by the Napoleonic Code
Honduras Honduras
Hungary Hungary Based on codified Roman law, with elements of the Napoleonic civil code
Iceland Iceland Based on Germanic traditional laws and influenced by Medieval Norwegian and Danish laws.
Italy Italy Based on codified Roman law, with elements of the Napoleonic civil code; civil code of 1942 replaced the original one of 1865
Japan Japan Modeled after European (primarily German) civil law system. Japanese civil code of 1895.
Latvia Latvia Based on codified Roman law with strong German traditions in civil and administrative law and procedure, as it was historically before the Soviet occupation, elements of French legal system are also common in Latvian law. While general principles of law are prerequisites in making and understanding the law, case law is also broadly applied to present legal arguments in courts and to explain application of law in similar cases. Rapidly decreasing remains of Soviet understanding of criminal acts can be found in criminal law, while criminal procedure law has been fully modeled after practice accepted in Western Europe. Civil law of Latvia enacted on 1937.
Lebanon Lebanon Modeled after French civil law
Lithuania Lithuania Modeled after Dutch civil law
Luxembourg Luxembourg Influenced by the Napoleonic Code
Libya Libya Influenced by Ottoman, French, Italian, and Egyptian sources
Macau Macau Based on the Portuguese strand of the continental tradition, itself much influenced by Germany; also influenced by the law of the PRC
Mauritius Mauritius
Mexico Mexico The origins of Mexico's legal system are both ancient and classical, based on the Roman and French legal systems, and the Mexican system shares more in common with other legal systems throughout the world (especially those in Latin America and most of continental Europe)...[6]
Mongolia Mongolia Civil Code of 2002 based on German BGB
Montenegro Montenegro First: the General Property Code for the Principality of Montenegro of 1888, written by Valtazar Bogišic'. Present: the Law on Obligations of 2008.
Mozambique Mozambique Based on Portuguese civil law
Netherlands Netherlands Influenced by the Napoleonic Code
Norway Norway Scandinavian-German civil law. King Magnus VI the Lawmender unified the regional laws into a single code of law for the whole kingdom in 1274. This was replaced by Christian V's Norwegian Code of 1687.
Panama Panama
Paraguay Paraguay The Paraguayan Civil Code in force since 1987 is largely influenced by the Napoleonic Code and the Argentinian Code
Peru Peru Based on civil law system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
Poland Poland The Polish Civil Code in force since 1965
Portugal Portugal Influenced by the Napoleonic Code and later by the German Civil Law
Taiwan Republic of China (Taiwan) Codification derived from German BGB.
Romania Romania Based on the Civil Code of Quebec, but also influenced by the Napoleonic Code and other French-inspired codes (such as those of Italy, Spain and Switzerland)[7]
Russia Russia Civil Law system descendant from Roman Law through Byzantine tradition. Heavily influenced by German and Dutch norms in 1700-1800's. Socialist-style modification in 1900's, and Continental European Law influences since 1990's.
São Tomé and Príncipe São Tomé e Príncipe Based on Portuguese civil law
Serbia Serbia First: the Civil Code of Principality of Serbia of 1844, written by Jovan Hadžic', was influenced by the Austrian Civil Code (Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch). Present: The Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) was a model for the Law on Obligations of 1978.
Slovakia Slovakia Descended from the Civil Code of the Austrian Empire (1811), influenced by German (1939–45) and Soviet (1947/68-89) legal codes during occupation periods, substantially reformed to remove Soviet influence and elements of socialist law after the Velvet Revolution (1989).
Slovenia Slovenia A Civil Law system influenced mostly by Germanic and Austro-Hungarian law systems
Spain Spain Influenced by the Napoleonic Code, it also has some elements of Spain's legal tradition, starting with the Siete Partidas, a major legislative achievement from the Middle Ages. That body of law remained more or less unchanged until the 19th century, when the first civil codes were drafted, merging both the Napoleonic style with the Castilian traditions.
Sweden Sweden Scandinavian-German civil law. Like all Scandinavian legal systems, it is distinguished by its traditional character and for the fact that it did not adopt elements of Roman law. It is indeed worth mentioning that it assimilated very few elements of foreign laws whatsoever. It is also interesting that the Napoleonic Code had no influence in codification of law in Scandinavia. The historical basis of the law of Sweden, just as for all Nordic countries, is Old German law. Codification of the law started in Sweden during the 18th century, preceding the codifications of most other European countries. However, neither Sweden, nor any other Nordic state created a civil code of the kind of the Code Civil or the BGB.
Switzerland Switzerland The Swiss Civil Code of 1908 and 1912 (obligations; fifth book)
East Timor Timor-Leste Based on Portuguese civil law
Turkey Turkey Modeled after the Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) of 1907.
Ukraine Ukraine Civil Code of Ukraine of 2004
Uruguay Uruguay
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan Represents an evolution of Soviet civil law. Overwhelmingly strong impact of the Communist legal theory is traceable.
Vietnam Vietnam Communist legal theory and French civil law
Common law
Main article: Common law
King John of England signs Magna Carta
Common law and equity are systems of law whose sources are the decisions in cases by judges. Alongside, every system will have a legislature that passes new laws and statutes. The relationships between statutes and judicial decisions can be complex. In some jurisdictions, such statutes may overrule judicial decisions or codify the topic covered by several contradictory or ambiguous decisions. In some jurisdictions, judicial decisions may decide whether the jurisdiction's constitution allowed a particular statute or statutory provision to be made or what meaning is contained within the statutory provisions. Statutes were allowed to be made by the government. Common law developed in England, influenced by Anglo-Saxon law and to a much lesser extent by the Norman conquest of England which introduced legal concepts from Norman law, which had its origins in Salic law. Common law was later inherited by the Commonwealth of Nations, and almost every former colony of the British Empire has adopted it (Malta being an exception). The doctrine of stare decisis or precedent by courts is the major difference to codified civil law systems.
Common law is currently in practice in Ireland, most of the United Kingdom (England and Wales and Northern Ireland), Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, India (excluding Goa), Pakistan, South Africa, Canada (excluding Quebec), Hong Kong, the United States (excluding Louisiana) and many other places. In addition to these countries, several others have adapted the common law system into a mixed system. For example, Nigeria operates largely on a common law system but incorporates religious law.
In the European Union, the Court of Justice takes an approach mixing civil law (based on the treaties) with an attachment to the importance of case law. One of the most fundamental documents to shape common law is Magna Carta[8] which placed limits on the power of the English Kings. It served as a kind of medieval bill of rights for the aristocracy and the judiciary who developed the law.
Country Description
American Samoa American Samoa
Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda based on English common law
Australia Australia based on English common law
The Bahamas Bahamas based on English common law
Bangladesh Bangladesh based on English common law
Barbados Barbados based on English common law
Belize Belize based on English common law
Bhutan Bhutan
British Virgin Islands British Virgin Islands based on English common law
Canada Canada based on English common law, except in Quebec Quebec, where a civil law system based on French law prevails in most matters of a civil nature, such as obligations (contract and delict), property law, family law and private matters. Federal statutes take into account the bijuridical nature of Canada and use both common law and civil law terms where appropriate.
Cyprus Cyprus based on English common law as inherited from British colonisation, with civil law influences, particularly in criminal law.
Dominica Dominica based on English common law
England Wales England and Wales
United Kingdom (UK) primarily common law, with early Roman and some modern continental influences
Fiji Fiji based on English common law
Gibraltar Gibraltar based on English common law
Ghana Ghana
Myanmar Myanmar based on English common law
Grenada Grenada based on English common law
Hong Kong Hong Kong principally based on English common law
India India based on English common law (except Goa, Daman and Diu which follow a Civil Law based on Portuguese Civil Law)
Republic of Ireland Ireland based on Irish law before 1922, which was itself based on English common law
Israel Israel based on English common law from the period of the British Mandate, also incorporating civil law and fragments of Jewish and Sharia law for family law cases
Jamaica Jamaica based on English common law
Kiribati Kiribati based on English common law
Marshall Islands Marshall Islands based on U.S. Law
Nauru Nauru based on English common law
New Zealand New Zealand based on English common law
Northern Ireland
United Kingdom (UK) based on Irish law before 1921, which was itself based on English common law
Palau Palau based on U.S. Law
Pakistan Pakistan[9] based on English common law with some provisions of Islamic law
Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis based on English common law
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Vincent and the Grenadines based on English common law
Singapore Singapore based on English common law, but Muslims are subject to the Administration of Muslim Law Act, which gives the Sharia Court jurisdiction over Muslim personal law, e.g., marriage, inheritance and divorce.
Tonga Tonga based on English common law
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago based on English common law
Tuvalu Tuvalu based on English common law
Uganda Uganda based on English common law
United States United States Federal courts and 49 states use the legal system based on English common law which has diverged somewhat since the mid-nineteenth century in that they look to each other's cases for guidance on issues of first impression and rarely, if ever, look at contemporary cases on the same issue in the UK or the Commonwealth
State law in the U.S. state of Louisiana is based upon French and Spanish civil law (see above)


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