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.


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.

  1. Personal Property

    Personal property is a type of property which can include any ...
  2. Next Of Kin

    Next of kin is a person's closest living blood relative and may ...
  3. Property Management

    Property management is the administration of residential, commercial ...
  4. Personal Use Property

    A type of property that an individual does not use for business ...
  5. Replacement Property

    Any property that is received as a replacement for property that ...
  6. Alternate Beneficiary

    In a will, an alternate beneficiary is usually named in case ...
Related Articles
  1. Managing Wealth

    Want Your Will to Prevail? Don't Die Intestate

    If you die without making a last will and testament, you are said to have died intestate. What happens to your assets in this case?
  2. Retirement

    4 Reasons Estate Planning Is So Important

    Estate planning isn't fun, but without it, there can be devastating consequences.
  3. Financial Advisor

    How "Death Tax" Waivers Work

    Although the specific rules vary by state, an estate or inheritance waiver relinquishes an heir from the right to receive assets distributed from a decedent.
  4. Financial Advisor

    How Estate Taxes Work, A Real Life Example

    The estate tax is frequently misunderstood. Learn more details about exactly how estate, or inheritance, taxes work in the United States.
  5. Financial Advisor

    Estate Planning: What to Learn from Celebrity Mistakes

    Prince's heirs could have benefitted from some more extensive estate planning. Here are some basics to cover with your clients when it comes to wills.
  6. Financial Advisor

    Estate Planning Tips for Financial Advisors

    Estate planning is not a set-it-and-forget-it proposition. Here are some tips for you and your clients.
  7. Financial Advisor

    Are The Wealthy Better Served By Trusts Or Wills?

    Trusts and wills are both means to pass on wealth to heirs. Which of these is likely to serve your needs better if you have considerable wealth?
  8. Managing Wealth

    Don't Count On An Inheritance

    If you're fortunate enough to receive an inheritance at all, it might not be nearly as large as you expect.
  9. Retirement

    Tips to Reduce or Avoid Probate on Your Estate

    Avoid or reduce the delays and costs of probate for your estate with these tips.
  10. Retirement

    Making Sure Assets Go to Non-Spousal Heirs

    Save non-spousal heirs taxes on your estate by moving your assets from a qualified plan.
  1. How is cost basis calculated on an inherited asset?

    Understand how the cost basis for stocks, property and other inherited assets is calculated, and the resulting tax implications ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Entrepreneur

    An Entrepreneur is an individual who founds and runs a small business and assumes all the risk and reward of the venture. ...
  2. Money Market

    The money market is a segment of the financial market in which financial instruments with high liquidity and very short maturities ...
  3. Perfect Competition

    Pure or perfect competition is a theoretical market structure in which a number of criteria such as perfect information and ...
  4. Compound Interest

    Compound Interest is interest calculated on the initial principal and also on the accumulated interest of previous periods ...
  5. Income Statement

    A financial statement that measures a company's financial performance over a specific accounting period. Financial performance ...
  6. Leverage Ratio

    A leverage ratio is any one of several financial measurements that look at how much capital comes in the form of debt, or ...
Trading Center