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An individual who receives an interest in, or ownership of, land, tenements, or hereditaments from an ancestor who has died intestate, through the laws of Descent and Distribution. At Common Law, an heir was the individual appointed by law to succeed to the estate of an ancestor who died without a will. It is commonly used today in reference to any individual who succeeds to property, either by will or law.
An heir of the body is an heir who was either conceived or born of the individual who has died, or a child of such heir. This type of heir is anyone who descends lineally from the decedent, excluding a surviving spouse, adopted children, and collateral relatives. Ordinarily, property can be given by will to anyone named or can be shared by all heirs, but historically, the owner of an entail could only pass his or her property on to heirs of the body. This type of inheritance is largely abolished by statute today.
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: descent and distribution, heir apparent, heirs of the body, pretermitted heir, will)
HEIR. One born in lawful matrimony, who succeeds by descent, and right of
blood, to lands, tenements or hereditaments, being an estate of inheritance.
It is an established rule of law, that God alone can make an heir. Beame's
Glanville, 143; 1 Thomas, Co. Lit. 931; and Butler's note, p. 938. Under the
word heirs are comprehended the heirs of heirs in infinitum. 1 Co. Litt. 7
b, 9 a, 237 b; Wood's Inst. 69. According to many authorities, heir may be
nomen collectivuum, as well in a deed as in a will, and operate in both in
the same manner, as heirs in the plural number. 1 Roll. Abr. 253; Ambl. 453;
Godb. 155; T. Jones, 111; Cro, Eliz. 313; 1 Burr. 38; 10 Vin. Abr. 233, pl.
1; 8 Vin. Abr. 233; sed vide 2 Prest. on, Est. 9, 10. In wills, in order to
effectuate the intention of the testator, the word heirs is sometimes
construed to mean next of kin; 1 Jac. & Walk. 388; and children, Ambl. 273.
See further, as to the force and import of this word, 2 Vent. 311; 1 P. Wms.
229; 3 Bro. P. C. 60, 454; 2 P. Wms. 1, 369; 2 Black. R. 1010; 4 Ves. 26,
766, 794; 2 Atk. 89, 580; 5 East Rep. 533; 5 Burr. 2615; 11 Mod. 189; 8 Vin.
Abr. 317; 1 T. R. 630; Bac. Abr. Estates in fee simple, B.
2. There are several kinds of heirs specified below.
3. By the civil law, heirs are divided into testamentary or instituted heirs legal heirs, or heirs of the blood; to which the Civil Code of Louisiana has added irregular heirs. They are also divided into unconditional and beneficiary heirs.
4. It is proper here to notice a difference in the meaning of the word heir, as it is understood by the common and by, the civil law. By the civil law, the term heirs was applied to all persons who were called to the succession, whether by the act of the party or by operation of law. The person who was created universal successor by a will, was called the testamentary heir; and the next of kin by blood was, in cases of intestacy, called the heir at law, or heir by intestacy. The executor of the common law is, in many respects, not unlike the testamentary heir of the civil law. Again, the administrator in many respects corresponds with the heir by intestacy. By the common law, executors unless expressly authorized by the will and administrators, have no right, except to the personal estate of the deceased; whereas, the heir by the civil law was authorized to administer both the personal and real estate. 1 Brown's Civ. Law, 344; Story, Confl. of Laws, Sec. 508.
5. All free persons, even minors, lunatics, persons of insane mind or the like, may transmit their estates as intestate ab intestato, and inherit from others. Civ. Code of Lo., 945; Accord, Co. Lit. 8 a.
6. The child in its mother's womb, is considered as born for all purposes of its own interest; it takes all successions opened in its favor, after its conception, provided it be capable of succeeding at the moment of its birth. Civ. Code of Lo. 948. Nevertheless, if the child conceived is reputed born, it is only in the hope of its birth; it is necessary then that the child be born alive, for it cannot be said that those who are born dead ever inherited. Id. 949. See In ventre sa mere.
HEIR. APPARENT. One who has an indefeasible right to the inheritance, provided he outlive the ancestor. 2 Bl. Com. 208.
HEIR, BENEFICIARY. A term used in the civil law. Beneficiary heirs are those who have accepted the succession under the benefit of an inventory regularly made. Civ. Code of Lo. art. 879. If the heir apprehend that the succession will be burdened with debts beyond its value, he accepts with benefit of inventory, and in that case he is responsible only for the value of the succession. See inventory, benefit of.
HEIR, COLLATERAL. A collateral heir is one who is not of the direct line of the deceased, but comes from a collateral line; as, a brother, sister, an uncle and aunt, a nephew, niece, or cousin of the deceased.
HEIR, CONVENTIONAL, civil law. A conventional heir is one who takes a succession by virtue of a contract; for example, a marriage contract, which entitles the heir to the succession.
HEIR, FORCED. Forced heirs are those who cannot be disinherited. This term is used among the civilians. Vide Forced heirs
HEIR, GENERAL. Heir at common in the English law. The heir at common law is he who, after his father or ancestor's death has a right to, and is introduced into all his lands, tenements and hereditaments. He must be of the whole blood, not a bastard, alien, &c. Bac. Abr. Heir, B 2; Coparceners; Descent.
HEIR, IRREGULAR. In Louisiana, irregular heirs are those who are neither testamentary nor legal, and who have been established by law to take the succession. See Civ. Code of Lo. art. 874. When the deceased has left neither lawful descendants nor ascendants, nor collateral relations, the law calls to his inheritance either the surviving husband or wife, or his or her natural children, or the state. Id. art., 911. This is called an irregular succession.
HEIR, LEGAL, civil law. A legal heir is one who is of the same blood of the deceased, and who takes the succession by force of law; this is different from a testamentary or conventional heir, who takes the succession in virtue of the disposition of man. See Civil, Code of Louis. art. 873, 875; Dict. de Jurisp., Heritier legitime. There are three classes of legal heirs, to wit; the children and other lawful descendants; the fathers and mothers and other lawful ascendants; and the collateral kindred. Civ. Code of Lo. art. 883.
HEIR, TESTAMENTARY, civil law. A testamentary heir is one who is constituted heir by testament executed in the form prescribed by law. He is so called to distinguish him from the legal heirs, who are called to the succession by the law; and from conventional heirs, who are so constituted by a contract inter vivos. See Haeres factus; Devisee.
HEIR, UNCONDITIONAL. A term used in the civil law, adopted by the Civil Code of Louisiana. Unconditional heirs are those who inherit without any reservation, or without making an inventory, whether their acceptance be express or tacit. Civ. Code of Lo. art. 878.