Heir apparent is an heir who will inherit from a family member's estate as long as they outlive that person. An heir apparent cannot be displaced from inheriting unless they are specifically disinherited in the decedent's Last Will and Testament. The term heir apparent is also used for the obvious successor of a throne or title.
An heir apparent is generally a lineal heir to the decedent. The decedent's child is the first heir apparent. However, if the decedent did not have a child or the child has already died the grandchild would become the heir apparent. Once lineal heirs have been exhausted, the next heir apparent would be the closest living relative of the decedent.
The heir apparent is legally entitled to the estate of a deceased family member who dies intestate (without a Will). When a person dies, their estate goes into probate. The Probate Court appoints a Trustee to pay the creditors and debts associated with the estate. The Trustee then divides the remaining assets to the heir apparent. If there are multiple heirs apparent, the estate is divided equally among them.
When a person disinherits an heir apparent, they must do so by specifically stating their wishes in their Will. For example, a decedent has two children both are considered by law as heirs apparent. The decedent had disinherited the second child and wishes to leave them nothing. The Last Will and Testament must specifically mention the second child has been disinherited and is not to receive a part of the estate.
When an heir apparent is simply omitted from a Will, they are considered a pretermitted heir. Pretermitted heirs are heirs that have unintentionally been left out of a Will. When this occurs, the heirs apparent would receive equal portions of the estate as if the decedent had died without a Will.