Heir

DEFINITION of 'Heir'

HeirA person who inherits some or all of the estate of another person who has died. An heir receives property according to the laws of the state in which the property is probated when a person dies intestate (without a valid will). The rules of descent and distribution determine to whom property transfers when a person dies without a will. The heir(s) who inherit(s) the property are typically children, descendants or other close relatives of the decedent.

BREAKING DOWN 'Heir'

In the event there is more than one heir with the same relation to the deceased (such as two children), they will share equally in the estate. For example, if the father of two children dies intestate and there are no other living relatives, each of the two children (who become heirs to the estate) will receive property equal to half of the estate. The part of a deceased person's estate that is given to an heir is known as an inheritance.

An inheritance can involve cash, stocks, bonds, real estate and other personal property such as automobiles, furniture and jewelry.

While heir refers to a person who receives the property of another person who has died intestate, the term heir is commonly used to describe beneficiaries as well - those who are entitled to property left by will, trust, insurance policy or some other arrangement. In fact, however, not all heirs are beneficiaries, such as the case with an estranged adult child who is intentionally left out of a will. Likewise, not all beneficiaries are heirs. For example, a person can designate a friend or companion to receive property. In this case, the friend is not an heir (he or she would not be the recipient of property if left intestate because he or she is not a child or direct relative); however, the friend is a beneficiary as designated through the deceased person's will or other arrangement.

A female heir is often referred to as an heiress, particularly if the inheritance involves substantial wealth.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Beneficial Interest

    The right to receive benefits on assets held by another party. ...
  2. Custodial Agreement

    An arrangement whereby one holds an asset or property on behalf ...
  3. Bona Vacantia

    A legal term for the situation in which property is left without ...
  4. Next Of Kin

    A person's closest living blood relative. The next-of-kin relationship ...
  5. Primary Beneficiary

    A beneficiary in a will, trust or insurance policy that is first ...
  6. Escheat

    The transfer of title of property or an estate to the state when ...
Related Articles
  1. Entrepreneurship

    World's Top 10 Youngest Billionaires

    Understand what has helped result in so many young billionaires in the world. Learn about the 10 youngest billionaires in the world.
  2. Taxes

    Distribution Rules For Inherited Retirement Plan Assets

    If you've recently inherited a retirement plan, you must get to know the rules for distributing the funds.
  3. Retirement

    3 Deadlines For Retirement Plan Beneficiaries

    To take full advantage of new RMD regulations, beneficiaries need to take action before important deadlines.
  4. Retirement

    6 Ways To Lose Your Estate

    Find out why you shouldn't put off putting your affairs in order.
  5. Retirement

    Bursting Boomers' Inheritance Dreams

    Waiting for a big payload from an aging relative? The chance of cashing in is lower than you think.
  6. Retirement

    7 Common Investor Mistakes

    Find out how to avoid - or fix - these frequent investing errors.
  7. Retirement

    7 Reasons To Review Or Revise Your Will

    Drafting a will and locking it away for good could negatively affect your beneficiaries.
  8. Insurance

    Encouraging Good Habits With An Incentive Trust

    Money can be a powerful motivator - why not use it to teach your heirs positive lessons?
  9. Options & Futures

    An Estate Planning Must: Update Your Beneficiaries

    Life changes make it time to rewrite your plan's designations.
  10. Taxes

    Why People Renounce Their U.S Citizenship

    This year, the highest number of Americans ever took the irrevocable step of giving up their citizenship. Here's why.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Are bank accounts escheatable?

    If banks are unable to contact account owners at their last known addresses, or receive no response, by law, the accounts ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do I file taxes for income from foreign sources?

    If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, your income (except for amounts exempt under federal law), including that which ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Are estate planning fees tax deductible?

    Estate planning fees may be tax deductible, but only if certain conditions have been met. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can personal loans be included in bankruptcy?

    Personal loans from friends, family and employers fall under common categories of debt that can be discharged in the case ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How much money does Texas make from unclaimed property each year?

    In 2014, the office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts reported $234 million in unclaimed property claimant liabilities, ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Are Cafeteria plans subject to FICA, ERISA or FUTA?

    Cafeteria plans are employer-sponsored benefit plans that provide both taxable and nontaxable, or qualified, benefit options ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
  2. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  3. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
  4. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
  5. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  6. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
Trading Center