What is an Heir?

Heirs are persons entitled by law to receive a decedent's property when that decedent dies without a Will, pursuant to the intestacy statute.  A decedent's heirs are generally the decedent's spouse, the decedent's children, or the lineal descendants of those children.  When a decedent dies without such immediate family members, the intestacy statute identifies other persons in the decedent's family blood line to receive the decedent's property.  If no such persons exist, then the State of Washington receives the decedent's property, and lawyers say the estate "escheats" to the State.

If a person executes a valid Will, the persons who receive the Will-maker’s property are called “legatees.”  A person’s heirs and legatees may not be the same people.

Washington’s intestacy statute is contained at RCW 11.04.015.