How to Find Out If I am the Heir to a Person or Estate

by Katherine Sheldon

When a family member, relative or friend passes away, you may want to find out whether you are an heir to the estate or assets. If you are an heir, by definition you have the right to receive the property, position, or title of the person who died. The process to determine if you are an heir must be started within a couple years after the person dies. This task can be more complicated if the deceased did not have a will.


Identify the decedent's attorney or the executor of the estate. The executor is an individual who has the responsibility to pay off debts and taxes of the deceased. The executor also distributes all assets. He will contact you by phone or by mail if you are named in the last will and testament of the decedent and due an inheritance from the estate. If you don't know who the executor of the estate is, ask family or friends, or even the funeral home that handled the services. Once you identify the executor, call him to asking if you are named in the will and will be receiving an inheritance.

Read the local newspaper where the deceased lived. A notice is published in the newspaper to make possible heirs and creditors aware that an individual has died.

Go to the county courthouse to file an heirship affidavit. This form will state that you are the heir to the deceased person, entitling you to part of the estate. This document will have your name and the decedent's name. Your relationship to the decedent must be noted. Once the form is filed, the court must send all documents pertaining to the will to the individual who filed the affidavit.

Retain a lawyer if you believe you are an heir to an estate or person but the deceased does not have a will. If this is the case you can claim the inheritance through the state's intestate laws. The deceased is considered to have died intestate when he does not have a will. In this case the state's laws determine who has the right to inherit.


  • There are times when wills and trusts are contested and go into probate. If this is the case, it can be several years before assets or property are distributed. If the case goes into probate, contact a probate attorney.


About the Author

Katherine Sheldon has been writing since 2005. She has written for and American Adoptions. She has expertise in adoption, parenting, relationships, children's mental health and wellness. Sheldon holds a master's degree in counseling psychology from Pace University.

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