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heir

n. one who acquires property upon the death of another, based on the rules of descent and distribution, namely, being the child, descendant or other closest relative of the dear departed. It also has come to mean anyone who "takes" (receives something) by the terms of the will. An heir cannot be determined until the moment of death of the person leaving the property, since a supposed beneficiary (heir apparent) might die first. A presumptive heir is someone who would receive benefits unless a child was later born to the current owner of the property the presumptive heir hopes to get someday. A legally adopted child gains the chance to be an heir upon adoption as if he/she were the natural child of the adoptive parent or parents and is called an adoptive heir. A collateral heir is a relative who is not a direct descendant, but a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin, nephew, niece or a parent. It is noteworthy that a spouse is not an heir unless specifically mentioned in the will. He/She may, however, receive an inheritance through marital property or community property laws. A child not mentioned in a will can claim to be a pretermitted heir, i.e. inadvertently or accidentally omitted from the will, and can claim he/she would (should) have received as an heir.

See also: descent and distribution  heir apparent  heirs of the body  pretermitted heir  succession  will 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications

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