Define: Second Cousin

Second Cousin
Second Cousin
Quick Summary of Second Cousin

A second cousin is a family member who has a great-grandparent in common with you. They are the offspring of your parent’s cousin. For instance, if your father’s cousin has a child, that child is considered your second cousin. You and your second cousin share a set of great-grandparents, which means you have a common ancestor. However, your relationship is not as close as that of first cousins. Second cousins typically share approximately 3.125% of their DNA.

What is the dictionary definition of Second Cousin?
Dictionary Definition of Second Cousin

Your second cousin is a relative who is the offspring of your parent’s cousin. This implies that you and your second cousin have the same great-grandparents but different grandparents. Although they are not as closely related as your first cousins, they are still considered part of your family.

Full Definition Of Second Cousin

In the context of British law, understanding the term “second cousin” is vital, particularly in matters concerning inheritance, family law, and genealogical research. This overview aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the legal standing, implications, and recognition of second cousins within the British legal framework. The term “second cousin” describes a specific degree of kinship, and its implications can vary across different legal contexts.

Definition and Legal Recognition

A second cousin is defined as the child of one’s parent’s first cousin. In simpler terms, second cousins share great-grandparents but not grandparents. Legally, this classification of kinship is acknowledged in various statutes and legal documents, particularly those relating to inheritance and family law.

Second Cousins in Inheritance Law

The most significant legal implication for second cousins arises in the context of inheritance. Under the rules of intestacy in England and Wales, the distribution of an estate when a person dies without a will is strictly regulated. The intestacy rules prioritize close relatives, and second cousins are quite low on the hierarchy of inheritance.

  1. Intestacy Rules:
    • When a person dies intestate (without a will), the estate is distributed among their nearest relatives.
    • Spouses, children, and parents are given the highest priority.
    • Second cousins would only inherit if there were no closer relatives (spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and first cousins).
    • The Administration of Estates Act 1925 governs the rules of intestacy and outlines the hierarchy of relatives who can inherit.
  2. Inheritance Act 1975:
    • The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 allows certain individuals to make a claim against the estate if they believe they have not been adequately provided for.
    • While second cousins can technically make a claim, it is uncommon and typically unsuccessful unless they can demonstrate a significant dependence on the deceased or other exceptional circumstances.

Second Cousins in Family Law

In family law, the recognition of second cousins can arise in contexts such as guardianship, adoption, and family reunification. British law generally does not heavily regulate relationships with second cousins, but they may be relevant in certain situations.

  1. Guardianship and Adoption:
    • Second cousins can be considered for guardianship or adoption, especially in the absence of closer relatives.
    • The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration, as stipulated by the Children Act 1989.
    • Family courts may consider the emotional bonds and the existing relationship between the second cousin and the child.
  2. Family Reunification:
    • In immigration law, family reunification provisions typically prioritize immediate family members.
    • Second cousins may not have automatic rights for reunification but could potentially be considered in exceptional cases, particularly under humanitarian grounds or special visa categories.

Legal Standing in Other Contexts

While inheritance and family law are the primary areas where second cousins have explicit legal recognition, there are other contexts where their legal standing might be relevant.

  1. Genealogical Research and Identity Verification:
    • Second cousins are often involved in genealogical research, which can have legal implications, especially in cases of disputed estates or citizenship applications.
    • DNA testing and genealogical records can establish the relationship between second cousins, which may be used as evidence in legal proceedings.
  2. Marriage Laws:
    • British law permits marriage between second cousins.
    • The Marriage Act 1949 outlines prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity, but second cousins do not fall within these prohibited degrees.

Comparative Legal Context

It is also instructive to consider how British law regarding second cousins compares to other jurisdictions.

  1. United States:
    • Similar to British law, second cousins in the United States are recognized in inheritance laws, though they also inherit only when there are no closer relatives.
    • Some states have variations in their intestacy laws, but the general principle remains consistent.
  2. European Union:
    • Within the EU, the recognition of second cousins can vary significantly.
    • Countries with civil law systems, like France and Germany, have detailed codes that outline inheritance rights, where second cousins might be considered in specific scenarios.
  3. Commonwealth Countries:
    • Countries like Canada and Australia share similarities with British law, particularly in the context of inheritance and family law.
    • The principles of kinship and the legal standing of second cousins are largely consistent with those in the UK.

Practical Implications

Understanding the legal standing of second cousins can have practical implications in various scenarios.

  1. Estate Planning:
    • Individuals drafting wills should be aware of the implications of intestacy rules and consider specifying bequests to second cousins if desired.
    • Proper estate planning can prevent disputes and ensure that the estate is distributed according to the deceased’s wishes.
  2. Legal Claims:
    • Second cousins considering legal claims against an estate should seek legal advice to understand their standing and the likelihood of success.
    • Documenting dependence or contributions to the deceased’s welfare can strengthen their case.
  3. Family Matters:
    • In cases of guardianship or adoption, the existing relationship with the child and the ability to provide a stable environment are critical considerations.
    • Family courts prioritise the best interests of the child, and second cousins can be viable candidates for guardianship or adoption.


In British law, second cousins hold a specific, though often limited, legal standing, particularly in the contexts of inheritance and family law. While they are recognised as kin, their rights and implications are secondary to those of closer relatives. Understanding these nuances is essential for effective estate planning, legal claims, and family law matters. As legal frameworks evolve, the recognition and implications of second cousins may also change, necessitating a continuous review and understanding of their legal standing.

Second Cousin FAQ'S

Yes, in most jurisdictions, marriage between second cousins is legally allowed. However, it is important to check the specific laws of your country or state, as they may vary.

Generally, there are no legal restrictions on having children with your second cousin. However, it is advisable to consult with a medical professional to understand any potential genetic risks associated with close family relationships.

In most cases, you can legally inherit property from your second cousin if they have named you as a beneficiary in their will or if you are the closest living relative in the absence of a will. However, inheritance laws can vary, so it is recommended to consult with an attorney for specific guidance.

Adoption laws vary by jurisdiction, but in general, it is possible to adopt your second cousin’s child if certain legal requirements are met. Consulting with an adoption attorney is recommended to understand the specific laws and procedures in your area.

Depending on the jurisdiction, you may have legal grounds to contest a will if you believe you have been unfairly excluded as a beneficiary. However, contesting a will can be a complex legal process, so it is advisable to consult with an attorney specializing in estate law.

Yes, you can legally borrow money from your second cousin, just like you can from any other individual. However, it is recommended to have a written agreement outlining the terms of the loan to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes.

If your second cousin is living in your property without permission, you may be able to legally evict them. The specific eviction process will depend on the laws of your jurisdiction, so it is advisable to consult with a landlord-tenant attorney for guidance.

Yes, you can legally sue your second cousin for damages if they have caused harm to you. However, the success of your lawsuit will depend on various factors, including the nature of the harm and the applicable laws in your jurisdiction. Consulting with a personal injury attorney is recommended.

Generally, you cannot legally disown your second cousin as disownment is typically reserved for immediate family members such as parents or children. However, you can choose to sever ties or have limited contact with your second cousin if you wish.

Generally, you cannot legally change your second cousin’s name unless you have legal guardianship or parental rights over them. However, laws regarding name changes for minors vary, so it is advisable to consult with a family law attorney for specific guidance.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 8th June 2024.

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