It is a reserved share of the inheritance estate which is left to specific heirs under law. The Italian law protects immediate family members of the deceased by reserving a portion of the estate. For example, if the deceased left only one child, he/she is entitled to one half of the property. The Italian legislature has chosen to strongly protect this right: Under specific circumstances, if the deceased donates a portion that infringes on the right of the heir as specified by law, a legal action (azione di riduzione, Article 553 et seq of the Italian Civil Code) may be commenced to restore the legitimate successor’s right, obliging those who have received the donations to give back the donations to the rightful heirs (collazione, Article 737 of the Italian Civil Code).
A similar concept is found in Louisiana Law where descendants have a share reserved to them under law. This is termed “forced heirship”. This term could provide an adequate translation as the concept at its core is essentially the same, that is, the law protects certain immediate family members in the law of succession. Further, Black’s Law defines this concept as, “a person whom the testator or donor cannot disinherit because the law reserves part of the estate for that person.”
Alternatively, a more explanatory definition may be used whenever “forced heirship” does not work in context and the translator intends to ensure that the concept is well defined and understood by the reader. In these cases, an explanatory translation may be “Portion of the inheritance reserved by law to certain family members.” Or “Close Family-reserved inheritance share”. The first phrase may seem verbose, but it ensures that the reader is led to understand the concept. Albeit shorter, the second sentence may be more ambiguous and less clear for the reader.
This is an inexistent concept in common law countries where you may bequeath your fortune to any loved one, including the care of your pets to ensure that they are well taken care of (e.g. a kennel to take care of your dogs, their weekly manicures and pampering). For an interesting read on a provision possibly applied in English Courts that produces results similar to the quota legittima,