Laughing Heir

AAA

DEFINITION of 'Laughing Heir'

A distant relative who has inheritance rights despite not having a close, personal relationship with the decedent. In most jurisdictions, the law requires that the property of a person who passed away without leaving a will be given first to members of the decedent's immediate family, such as a spouse, children, etc. Under common law, this familial hierarchy extends as far back as it can be traced, giving folks who may have never even heard of the decedent - much less known him/her - inheritance rights.

INVESTOPEDIA EXPLAINS 'Laughing Heir'

Many states have enacted laughing heir statutes that limit the rights of distant family members of decedents who died without a will. In these states, the decedent's estate passes, or escheats, to the state itself, to be disbursed as government officials see fit. In states without laughing heir statutes, distant relatives still have priority over the state to an intestate decedent's belongings.

Therefore, it is important to know whether the state of your residence has any laughing heir statutes when considering the execution of your will, lest you inadvertently leave your benefactors liable to potential lawsuits from distant relatives.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Custodial Agreement

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

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

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

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

    The transfer of title of property or an estate to the state when ...
  6. Estate

    All of the valuable things an individual owns, such as real estate, ...
Related Articles
  1. Top 7 Estate Planning Mistakes
    Retirement

    Top 7 Estate Planning Mistakes

  2. The Executor's Checklist: 7 Things To ...
    Retirement

    The Executor's Checklist: 7 Things To ...

  3. Financial Planners: Specialize In Seniors
    Retirement

    Financial Planners: Specialize In Seniors

  4. Estate Planning Must-Haves For Unmarried ...
    Retirement

    Estate Planning Must-Haves For Unmarried ...

comments powered by Disqus
Hot Definitions
  1. Odious Debt

    Money borrowed by one country from another country and then misappropriated by national rulers. A nation's debt becomes odious ...
  2. Takeover

    A corporate action where an acquiring company makes a bid for an acquiree. If the target company is publicly traded, the ...
  3. Harvest Strategy

    A strategy in which investment in a particular line of business is reduced or eliminated because the revenue brought in by ...
  4. Stop-Limit Order

    An order placed with a broker that combines the features of stop order with those of a limit order. A stop-limit order will ...
  5. Pareto Principle

    A principle, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, that specifies an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. The ...
  6. Pareto Principle

    A principle, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, that specifies an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. The ...
Trading Center