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.
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 Scotland, legitim refers to the Bairn's Pairt (of gear) (bairn = child).