Heir definition

History and Etymology for heir


Middle English eir, eyre, heir, borrowed from Anglo-French heir, going back to Vulgar Latin *hērem, *hēre, taken as oblique forms (by declension reassignment) of Latin hērēd-, hērēs, from hēr- (probably going back to Indo-European heh1ro- "abandoned, derelict," whence also Greek chêros "widowed, orphaned, bereaved," chérā "widow") + -ēd-, perhaps a suffixal element

Note: Latin hērēd- has been directly compared with the base of Greek chērōstaí "kinsmen inheriting the property of a person lacking closer relatives" (with the agent suffix -tēs). Opposing the interpretation of *-ēd-/*-ōd- as a suffixal element is an older explanation that sees the etymon as a compound of heh1ro- and the verbal base *h1ed- "eat"—the whole hence meaning approximately "that which devours what is left behind." (The Greek outcome would then be from heh1ro-h1d-, with zero grade of the verb.) The adjective heh1ro- has been taken as a derivative of the verbal base heh1- "let go, leave behind" (see go entry 1).


Middle English erren, heyren, derivative of eir, eyreheir entry 1

Sours: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heir


What Is an Heir?

An heir is defined as an individual who is legally entitled to inherit some or all of the estate of another person who dies intestate, which means the deceased person failed to establish a legal last will and testament during their living years. In such a scenario, the heir receives property according to the laws of the state in which the property is probated.

Heirs who inherit property are typically children, descendants, or other close relatives of the decedent. Spouses typically are not legally considered to be heirs, as they are instead entitled to properties via marital or community property laws.

Key Takeaways

  • An heir is a person who is legally entitled to collect an inheritance when a deceased person did not formalize a last will and testament.
  • Generally speaking, heirs who inherit the property are children, descendants, or other close relatives of the decedent. 
  • Legally speaking, heirs differ from beneficiaries, who are designated by a will or other written documents, as the intended recipient of a decedent's assets.
  • The portion of a deceased person's estate that's bequeathed to an heir is known as an inheritance.
  • When an individual dies without a will, it is known as intestate, and a probate court determines how the assets are distributed.

Understanding Heir

When there is more than one heir with the same relationship to the deceased, such as the case when there are two siblings, those individuals typically divvy up the estate equally. The portion of a deceased person's estate that's bequeathed to an heir is known as an inheritance. This can involve cash, stocks, bonds, real estate, and other personal property such as automobiles, furniture, antiques, artwork, and jewelry.

There are many specific types of heirs, including the following:

  • An heir apparent: This describes a person who is widely assumed to receive the inheritance.
  • A presumptive heir: This describes a person who under present circumstances, would be considered to be an heir, but whose right of inheritance may be defeated by the contingency of a more recently-born individual.
  • Adoptive heir: This refers to a legally adopted child who has the same rights as the biological children of the parents.
  • A collateral heir: This describes a relative who isn't a direct descendant, but is nevertheless a family member.

Special Considerations

When an individual dies without a will, it is known as intestate. It can also refer to a situation when the will is considered to be invalid. The manner in which the deceased's assets will be distributed in intestacy will be decided by a probate court.

When a person dies without a will a court administrator will oversee the deceased's estate. They will gather all assets, pay off any liabilities, and distribute the remaining assets to the individuals considered to be the beneficiaries of the deceased; the heirs-at-law. The probate process is determined by state law.

The remaining assets are passed to the beneficiaries via intestate succession, determining the hierarchy of how the assets will be given. The intestate succession starts with the deceased's spouse, then the children, and then the grandchildren. If no living family or heirs-at-law can be located, the assets will go to the state.

Heir vs. Beneficiary

While the term "heir" legally refers to a person who receives the property of an individual who died intestate, in common parlance, the word "heir" is often used to describe those inheriting property, as designated by a will. However, strictly speaking, this usage of the word is factually inaccurate, as the proper term for such an individual is a "beneficiary," which legally defines an individual who is entitled to collect the property, as prescribed by a will, trust, insurance policy, or another binding arrangement.

Traditionally speaking, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic laws each have their own sets of customs when it comes to heirs.

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, because he would not be the recipient of property if left intestate, because he is not a child or direct relative of the decedent. However, that friend can accurately be called a beneficiary, as designated through the deceased person's will or another arrangement. A female heir is often referred to as an heiress, particularly if the inheritance involves substantial wealth.

Examples of Heir

Rockefeller Family

The Rockefeller family is one of the most famous families in the world. The wealth was accumulated by John D. Rockefeller through his business in the oil industry. Though he gave a significant portion of his wealth to charity, his heirs were his two surviving children at the time of his death: Alta Rockefeller and John D. Rockefeller Jr.

At the time of his death, in today's dollars, John D. Rockefeller's net worth was $340 billion.

Both children during and after Rockefeller's lifetime received a significant portion of his wealth as his heirs; wealth that has continued to be passed down to family members. Though technically a beneficiary, being the only son of Rockefeller, Jr. took over the family office and joined the family businesses, considered to be the "heir" to Rockefeller.

Heir to the British Throne

The British line of succession is hereditary and is passed down via bloodline from the monarch to their eldest living son. If there is no son, then the line of succession goes to the eldest living daughter.

The current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II. Her father, George VI, had no sons, and, therefore, Elizabeth being the eldest daughter, inherited the throne. The current heir to the British throne is Queen Elizabeth's eldest son, Prince Charles. Following Charles, the heir to the throne is his eldest son, Prince William. After Prince William, the heir to the throne is his eldest son, Prince George.

The Bottom Line

An heir is someone who is entitled to the estate of a recently deceased person, most often when the deceased does not leave a will designating a beneficiary. An heir is often the child of an individual. The term "heir" has commonly been associated with lines of succession, particularly in royal families, however, the term can also simply refer to any individual who will assume the estate of another individual. This can be a child, grandchild, nephew, niece, or sibling.

Sours: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/heir.asp
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See synonyms for: heir / heirs on Thesaurus.com

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a person who inherits or has a right of inheritance in the property of another following the latter's death.

  1. (in common law) a person who inherits all the property of a deceased person, as by descent, relationship, will, or legal process.
  2. Civil Law.a person who legally succeeds to the place of a deceased person and assumes the rights and obligations of the deceased, as the liabilities for debts or the possessory rights to property.

a person who inherits or is entitled to inherit the rank, title, position, etc., of another.

a person or group considered as inheriting the tradition, talent, etc., of a predecessor.

verb (used with object)

Chiefly South Midland and Southern U.S.to inherit; succeed to.



We could talk until we're blue in the face about this quiz on words for the color "blue," but we think you should take the quiz and find out if you're a whiz at these colorful terms.

Question 1 of 8

Which of the following words describes “sky blue”?

Origin of heir

1225–75; Middle English eir, heir<Old French <Latin hērēd- (stem of hērēs); akin to Greek chêros bereaved




air, e'er, ere, err, heir

Words nearby heir

Heinlein, heinous, Heinrich, Heinz, Heinz-Ehrlich body, heir, heir apparent, heir at law, heirdom, heiress, heirloom

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

How to use heir in a sentence

  • Andy Jassy is the likely heir apparent to Jeff BezosBezos, who turned 57 last month, set up the transition to Jassy last summer, when the company announced that one of his possible successors, Jeff Wilke, would soon retire.

    Jeff Bezos stepping down as Amazon CEO, transitioning to executive chair role|Jay Greene, Tony Romm|February 4, 2021|Washington Post

  • The most logical heir, Jeff Wilke, beat Bezos to the door, announcing his retirement last year.

    Jeff Bezos drops CEO role with Amazon under attack|Aaron Pressman|February 3, 2021|Fortune

  • Bubbles also change rapidly— heir walls approach the speed of light as they fly outward—and feature quantum mechanical randomness and waviness.

    How Universes Might Bubble Up and Collide - Facts So Romantic|Charlie Wood|January 28, 2021|Nautilus

  • Junior guard Eric Ayala entered the season as the heir apparent to Cowan because he already had experience at that spot from when Coach Mark Turgeon wanted Cowan to play off the ball.

    For Maryland basketball, point guard has become a two-man job|Emily Giambalvo|January 26, 2021|Washington Post

  • Prince Charles, heir apparent to the British crown, has asked the world’s CEOs to guarantee the rights of nature in capitalism.

    The British monarchy’s latest “treaty” asks CEOs to recognize the rights of nature|Michael J. Coren|January 13, 2021|Quartz

  • By allowing him to live, Marshal avoided the shame of killing an unarmed heir-apparent.

    England’s Greatest Knight Puts ‘Game of Thrones’ to Shame|William O’Connor|December 9, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • The heir to a tightrope walking family has tried some crazy stunts in his day.

    Nik Wallenda’s Blindfolded Tightrope Caper: Defying Death Over The Chicago River|Jacqui Goddard|November 2, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • Phew, he could have sex too, so an heir for Downton was assured.

    Dan Stevens Blows Up ‘Downton’: From Chubby-Cheeked Aristo to Lean, Mean American Psycho|Tim Teeman|September 19, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • Regardless, his turn as wealthy heir/sociopath John du Pont is never less than utterly transfixing and unsettling.

    Oscar Season Kicks Off in Toronto: Channing Tatum, Kristen Stewart, and More Court Awards Glory|Marlow Stern|September 14, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • Well, he could always ask Prince Andrew how things work out for the spare heir who loses his way.

    The Perils of a Playboy Prince|Tom Sykes|August 29, 2014|DAILY BEAST

  • The heir apparent and his brothers were cowering in fear, afraid to strike, yet hoping that others would strike for them.

    The Red Year|Louis Tracy

  • He is a hypochondriac now and would keep a close watch on his heir's health and habits; you may be sure of that.

    Ancestors|Gertrude Atherton

  • In some states he becomes the heir of the adopted parent like a natural child, with some limitations.

    Putnam's Handy Law Book for the Layman|Albert Sidney Bolles

  • The heir apparent, a boy of nine years old, is affianced to the daughter of a neighbouring king.

    A Woman's Journey Round the World|Ida Pfeiffer

  • Two minutes suffice for changing teams at the “Talbot,” and off that heir of the coaching age goes again.

    The Portsmouth Road and Its Tributaries|Charles G. Harper

British Dictionary definitions for heir


civil lawthe person legally succeeding to all property of a deceased person, irrespective of whether such person died testate or intestate, and upon whom devolves as well as the rights the duties and liabilities attached to the estate

any person or thing that carries on some tradition, circumstance, etc, from a forerunner

an archaic word for offspring

Derived forms of heir

heirless, adjective

Word Origin for heir

C13: from Old French, from Latin hērēs; related to Greek khēros bereaved

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Sours: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/heir

It was full, wide steps rose from the bottom to the edges so that one could swim in the center, and on. The upper step one could lie and bask in the warm water. The watercourse was organized in such a way that the cold water from the stream in the pool had time to heat up before flowing down. An invisible pipe down into the lake.

Definition heir

She began to drive her palms over her breasts. Then rub against the pillow with your chest. She lowered the pillow down between the legs.

You by your bare ass. Well, that's it, that's it, get down, otherwise we'll fall. Imagine, now we will crash together on the floor) get down, girl, get down.

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First I want to describe two of her son's best friends: these are ordinary guys who are no different. From others, their names are Pasha and Semyon. The only thing I want to draw your attention to is Semyon: he is cunning and almost always achieves his goal, regardless of the methods of achieving.

The intended goal, as a sign of proof that Sema slept with a girl, he could show a photo in which this very naked girl or woman will be.

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