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A legatee is a party that receives personal or real property through a will. Not to be confused with an heir, a legatee applies to parties that are not related to the party granting them the property. An heir and legatee are oftentimes used synonymously with one another, however they are in fact very different. Below you will find information describing how both are different.

A legatee is the party entitled to a deceased party’s estate. More commonly, a legatee is referred to as a beneficiary of an estate. The term derives from the word “legacy” which in this case means entitlement to a deceased party’s legacy.


An heir is the term that describes the surviving relatives of a deceased party who has an interest in the deceased party’s assets. If a party dies intestate, which means dying without a will, the property of the deceased party goes to the state. When this occurs, the state can decide where property will be transferred to. Heirs can include anyone whom can be entitled to the property of the deceased party’s assets including spouses, children, siblings, nieces and nephews, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and cousins.


The main difference between an heir and legatee is that the legatee cannot be related to deceased party. This typically will include a close friend, distant relative, or business associate. For example, John has no children and was never married. His best friend is still alive, and he wants his estate to go to his friend. His friend, Sam, is the legatee, and upon the death of John, Sam will be entitled to the property.

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