As The Heir at Law is virtually unknown to modern scholars, a brief word on the play itself seems in order.(2) Written by Haymarket Theatre manager George Colman the Younger, The Heir at Law opened on 15 July 1797 and achieved in that initial season the considerable run of twenty-eight nights.
Exactly how Jane Austen became acquainted with The Heir at Law remains uncertain.
Tom cannot meet the standards that Austen, through the introduction of her ideal heir at law Henry Moreland, has set for young men of their circumstances.
Austen further elucidates Tom's character through his determination to have The Heir at Law performed despite its objectionable features.
The court recognized that an heir at law could be an interested party, but the court said the daughter had "properly" been determined not to be an heir at law.(10) The court also noted that she had been excluded from two previous wills.
[W]hen an at least facially valid previous will is before the court, the burden is on the potential heir at law who wishes to contest a will to show that the previous will which excluded the contestant was invalid or that the doctrine of dependent relative revocation did not apply.
[sections] 731.201(18) equates the terms "heir" and "heir at law." Specifically that section provides: "Heirs" or "heirs at law" means those persons, including the surviving spouse, who are entitled under the statutes of intestate succession to the property of a decedent.
The court did not elaborate on why the daughter would not be an heir at law.