The importance of the family farm in EC agriculture is undisputed. This paper focuses upon the potential impact on family farms of capital outflows which arise from the Napoleonic Code inheritance system which is in place in many continental countries. This system implies that the transfer of ownership of the farm between generations is typically associated with a requirement for the successor to buy out the non‐succeeding heirs. The potential effects of these capital outflows on the family farm's current consumption and ability to pass on a viable unit to the next generation is illustrated using two versions of a life cycle simulation model using two definitions of what constitutes future family farm viability. The numerical results give some indication of the extra burden imposed by the Napoleonic Code inheritance system relative to primogeniture.