December 5, 2011
Installment H of Estate Lawyer A to Z is HEIRS. What is an heir? Most people think that an heir is somebody that will inherit your property after your lifetime. This is sometimes true, but sometimes it is not true. The term HEIR is defined by South Carolina Code Section 62-1-201(17) as being “those persons, including the surviving spouse, who are entitled under the statute of intestate succession to the property of the decedent.” The SC Code drafters were not being very original inasmuch as Blacks Law Dictionary, Seventh Edition, defines an heir as “[a] person who, under the laws of intestacy, is entitled to receive an intestate decedent’s property.”
So it seems that in order to know what an heir is we need to know what intestacy and an intestate decedent is. Intestacy is simply the default inheritance scheme that takes effect when a person dies without a Last Will and Testament. An intestate decedent is a person who dies without leaving a Last Will.
So what is an HEIR? An heir is a person who is entitled, by default, to a decedent’s property when the decedent leaves no Last Will. So which of our family members are our heirs? I will discuss this in my next post where I will discuss INTESTACY in more detail.
There are actually different types of heirs depending on the circumstances. One type is the forced heir … a person who you are forced to leave an inheirtance to, such as your surviving spouse. Another type is the after born heir … a person who is entitled to receive an inheritance despite having been born after the death of the decedent. Another type is referred to as the laughing heir … a person who is distant enough on the family tree from the decedent to feel no grief when the decedent passes away leaving a windfall to the heir.
So, in what situation does an heir not inherit a decedent’s property? This occurs of course when the decedent leaves behind a Last Will that directs that a person other than an heir is to receive the inheritance.
Like any decent lawyer, I need to add a disclaimer here: unfortunately, it is impossible to offer comprehensive legal advice over the internet, no matter how well researched or written. And remember, reviewing this website and my blogs doesn’t make you a client of my Firm: before relying on any information given on this site, please contact a legal professional to discuss your particular situation.