The Rights of Heirs in an Estate

While some relatives of a deceased person, particularly a person with a large estate, may feel that they have a legal right to inherit from this person, the potential heir does not have a right to inherit without language in a will specifically stating that the heir has that right or unless a court gives him the right to inherit.

The Right to Pay Estate Taxes

As has been said so often, nothing is certain except for death and taxes, and in this case a person endures both. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the inheritance, the federal government will charge estate taxes on the total amount of the estate. A spouse is exempt from inheritance taxes regardless of the total amount of the estate, but other heirs will have to pay estate taxes on any amount over $1 million as of 2011. These taxes can be as high as 55 percent of the total amount of the estate.

If Named in a Will

A person makes someone an heir and gives him legal standing by naming them in a will. If a person is named in a will, he is entitled to collect his portion of the total estate according to what the will dictates. The executor of the will has the responsibility to take care of the estate, paying any bills on the estate, keeping the property in good repair and well maintained. The executor submits the will to the court for probating, and when that process is complete, the executor distributes the assets to the heirs.

Accidentally Excluded

An heir may not be mentioned in the will even though the deceased intended to write him in the will and let him receive his inheritance. The law provides for some people to be accidentally excluded. A person may do this by naming one child in a will, and not another, particularly if the deceased did not use the term "my children" or "my descendants" in the specific language. The court could find that the deceased did not intend to exclude his child, and rule that the child is entitled to a portion of the estate. The rights of an accidentally excluded heir must be determined by the courts.

Intentionally Excluded

A deceased person may not want a particular person who would otherwise be in a position to inherit money from his estate to do so. The reasons for this vary, but it could be due to a dispute the two had, or for other reasons. The deceased person owned the property, and may decide who doesn't inherit a portion. To avoid allowing the excluded person being ruled accidentally excluded, the deceased must have specifically exclude him in the will, most commonly by naming the person, and saying that he receives nothing, or $1.