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What Is an Heir Apparent?

There are different titles for a person who is to inherit an estate or property due to the different situations that may exist for a person to inherit. A person who has the right to inherit without any circumstances that prevent him or her from inheriting is referred to as an heir apparent.


An heir apparent is usually a person in direct relation to the individual bequeathing the estate or property. For example, In England, the heir apparent of a title of earl is usually the eldest, legitimate son of the male who is currently holding the title. Heir apparent is in reference to a process of inheritance based on heredity. Thus, an heir apparent is most commonly within the family.


Inheritance is usually done through the system of primogeniture, which references to the eldest having the ability to inherit everything that is included in the estate of the one bequeathing. As aforementioned, primogeniture was usually practiced by passing on the inheritance to the eldest, male heir. For example, if a king had a son as a fifth child following 4 daughters, the son would still inherit despite the fact that he was the youngest. However, in the course of history, an heir apparent can now include the eldest daughter.


Heir apparent is in contrast to an heir presumptive, an individual who inherits upon the death of the one bequeathing the estate unless that person gave birth legal issue or some other circumstances arise. An heir presumptive is “presumed” to inherit unless something happens.

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