In civil 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.
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 an 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 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.
The Louisiana Civil Code (http://www.findlaw.com/11stategov/la/civilcode2.html) on Successions
An infant thus legitimated is held equal to legitimate children in all respects as to sacred orders and as to ecclesiastical dignities, except the cardinalate.
Such legitimation is termed plenior in canon law to distinguish it from the plena legitimation which is granted by papal rescript, and from the plenissima which follows on the radical validation of a marriage (sanatio in radice).
Canon law and the Roman civil law are not in accord in the matter of legitimation, as the latter restricts the privilege to children born of concubinage, whose parents afterwards married.
Legitimation is the act of providing legitimacy to a child born out of wedlock.
Generally in the United States, the favored method is the subsequent marriage of the parents, although certain states may require special proceedings, and in others, the parents are required to officially adopt the child.
Legitimation in the social sciences refers to the process whereby an act, process, or ideology becomes legitimate by its attachment to norms and values within in given society.
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