In civil law and Roman law, the legitime, or forced share, of a decedent's estate is that portion of the estate from which he cannot disinherit his children, or his parents, without sufficient legal cause. The word comes from French héritier legitime, meaning "rightful heir."

The legitime is usually a fraction of the entire property, which is then shared by the heirs. Where there is the law of legitime, and in the case where the testator has children, it is not lawful for a testator with issue to designate his spouse as sole heir while ignoring his children.

The legitime, common in Continental Law jurisdictions, is a portion of property fixed by law, which a testator with issue is bound to bequeath to his children.

Common law

At common law, there is no legitime; the Statute of Wills, 32 Hen. VIII c. 1, provided for the unfettered distribution of a decedent's entire estate; a testator is entitled to disinherit any and all of his children, for any reason and for no reason. Most jurisdictions in the United States have enacted statutes that prohibit a testator from disinheriting a spouse, or provided that in the event of such a will the spouse may elect to "take against the will" and claim a statutory share of a decedent's estate. This is done as a substitute for the common law rights of dower and curtesy.

In certain jurisdictions


In Brazil, the descendants (alternatively, the parents or grandparents) and the spouse must receive at least 50 % of it among themselves.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, the nearest descendants can require a half of their intestacy portion if they are of age or the whole intestacy portion if they are under age. (If a child of the deceased died before him, his children can claim forced share instead of him etc.)


In Louisiana, up until recently, the situation was different. In Louisiana the legitime operated to prevent a parent from wholly disinheriting his children, who were called forced heirs. If there was one child, that child must receive at least 25% of the decedent's estate. If there were two or more children, they must receive at least 50% of it among themselves. Similar provisions prevented a decedent with living parents from disinheriting them.

Current Louisiana law provides for a forced share if the decedent's children are under 24 years of age, or are permanently unable to take care of themselves.


In Scotland, legitim refers to the Bairn's Part (bairn = child).

See also

External links

Search another word or see legitimeon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature