heir / e(ə)r/ • n. a person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person's death: his eldest son and heir she aspired to marry the heir to the throne. ∎ fig. a person inheriting and continuing the legacy of a predecessor: they saw themselves as the true heirs of the Enlightenment. DERIVATIVES: heir·dom / -dəm/ n. heir·less adj. heir·ship / -ˌship/ n.
An individual who receives an interest in, or ownership of, land, tenements, or hereditaments from an ancestor who has died intestate, through the laws ofdescent and distribution. Atcommon 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.
heir apparent an heir whose claim cannot be set aside by the birth of another heir.
heir presumptive a person whose claim can be set aside by the birth of another heir.
See also walnuts and pears you plant for your heirs at walnut.