An heir is someone who’s legally entitled to a portion of estate property. Heirs are generally family members. While many of them are blood relatives, heirs can also be surviving spouses or adopted children.
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Types of Heirs
- Heir Apparent: The person most likely to receive an inheritance – typically the next of kin. This is usually the spouse or surviving children.
- Presumptive Heir: This is the person who may be the most likely to receive the inheritance as an heir, but may not receive it because a closer relative is found.
- Adoptive Heir: This is an adopted child. In most states, the adopted child has the same legal rights as a biological child. Foster children, however, are not considered adoptive heirs unless the children are legally adopted. Check your state law to be safe. If you’ve adopted a child who won’t have the same rights as your biological children, you’ll have to name them as the beneficiary (legal recipient) so they can receive assets.
- Collateral Heirs: A collateral heir is someone who is a family member, but not a direct descendant. They can be siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. They generally receive property when someone dies without a spouse, children, or surviving parents.
What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will?
If a person dies without a will in place, that’s known as dying intestate. This also applies when an existing will is declared invalid for one reason or another. The deceased person’s estate goes to the probate court, where it follows the state’s intestacy laws.
Each state has different laws about intestate succession, which is why estate planning is so important. In some states, adopted children do not have the same legal right to inherit property as blood relatives. Generally speaking, though, it follows this path:
- Surviving spouse
- Adult children
- Adult siblings
- Other close relatives
It’s worth noting these succession laws only apply to property that can be passed through a will. Assets such as:
- Funds in a retirement account (401k, IRA, etc.)
- Life insurance payment
- Any property transferred to a living trust
- Anything held in transfer-on-death accounts (bank accounts, securities)
- Property owned with another person in joint tenancy
Pass directly to the named beneficiary, regardless of whether there’s a valid will in place or not. The deceased names the person entitled to receive the asset distribution when they open the retirement account, obtain life insurance, or create the living trust. While the deceased person is alive, they can change the
Is an Heir the Same Thing as a Beneficiary?
No, not exactly. An heir and a beneficiary have similar meanings but have some important differences. Understanding the difference between an heir and a beneficiary is crucial when it comes to estate planning.
An heir is someone who receives property from someone who dies intestate. A beneficiary is a person who receives property from someone, as named in a will, insurance policy, trust, or another legally binding agreement.
In some cases, an heir is a beneficiary – such as when a spouse names the surviving spouse as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. But not all heirs are beneficiaries – such as when an estranged child is left out of the will and a close friend inherits property from an estate.
If you don’t want your property to automatically follow the line of intestate succession, speak to a law firm that specializes in estate planning. With proper legal advice, you can set things up so that the probate process will run as smoothly as possible after your death.
FAQ’s For Heirs and Heiresses
Who can be an heir or heiress?
Heirs may be direct blood relatives such as children, siblings or parents. The most direct heir is often the surviving spouse but there are other possibilities too! An heir can also refer to adopted kids who would inherit if no close relative could be found-they’re called “nearby heirs”.
What is the difference between an Hier and Heiress
An heir refers to a male and an heiress refers to a female. Both terms mean the same thing and refer to someone that will inherit assets from a decedent.
Can an heir get a loan on their future inheritance?
Yes, an heir can qualify what’s referred to as an heir loan or if the probate process has started they can receive an inheritance advance.
Are You An Heir to an Estate Stuck in Probate?
Depending on the circumstances of the will and the size of the estate, you could be dealing with a time-consuming probate process. If you need access to your inheritance funds now, contact us today. We may be able to help you get money in your bank account in as little as 24 hours.