Casefile Clues

17 March 2014

Grandma Was the Sole Heir?

An article I read recently used the phrase "Grandma was the sole heir" to describe the legal situation around "Grandpa's" farm after his death in Illinois in the 1870s. The article made it clear that the writer descended from Grandma and Grandpa--so there were children of the couple. Grandpa and Grandme were not childless.  It may be a technical point, but if Grandma was Grandpa's sole heir in Illinois in the 1870s, then Grandma and Grandpa had no descendants as that's the only way for Grandma to have been Grandpa's sole heir.

If Grandpa had a will and had left his farm to Grandma then she would have been his devisee. If Grandpa had left Grandma his tools and other personal property then she would have been his legatee. Grandpa can't name heirs in his will--at least not technically in most states.

Heirs are usually individuals who have an interest in the estate of a deceased person unless a valid will is approved by the appropriate court. Heirs are defined by state statute.

In the 1870s in Illinois, Grandpa's heirs would have been Grandma and the children of Grandpa. Normally Grandma would have had a one-third interest in Grandpa's property and Grandpa's descendants would have split the remaining portion.

Grandma could have been Grandpa's sole beneficiary or his sole legatee. Grandma was probably not Grandpa's sole heir.

Legal terms may hide nuances of which we are not aware.

Grandma probably wasn't Grandma's sole heir even if they had no children in Illinois in the 1870s. But that's another story.


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