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An heir.

1. Greek

At Athens, if a person died intestate, leaving sons, all of equal birthright, and none of them disinherited, the sons inherited the property in equal parts (ἰσόμοιροι), the eldest probably receiving the same share as the rest. If there were daughters, they were provided for by dowries given by the brothers, which, in case they were divorced or childless after marriage, went back to the remaining heirs. Girls so dowered were called ἐπίπροικοι. This was a matter of usage and not of formal law. If a man had no sons of his own, he usually adopted a son to continue the family and the religious worship connected with it. (See Adoptio.) If he had daughters, he would marry one of them to the adopted son; in this case the chief share of the inheritance would fall to this married daughter and her husband, the rest receiving dowries. If there were only daughters surviving, the succession passed to them. In such a case the next of kin had a legal right to one of the heiresses (ἐπίκληρος), and could demand to marry her, even if she had married some one else before receiving the inheritance; and poor heiresses (θῆσσαι), on the other hand, had a legal claim on their nearest of kin, either for marriage or for a provision suitable to their circumstances. (See Epiclerus.) If a man had married an heiress, he was bound by custom and tradition, if he had sons, to name one as heir to the property which had come with his wife, and thus to restore the house of the maternal grandfather. Children born out of wedlock were illegitimate, and had no claim on the father's estate. If a man died intestate, leaving no heirs either of his body or adopted, his nearest relations in the male line inherited, and in default of these, those in the female line as far as the children of first cousins. Any one thinking he had a legal claim to the inheritance made an application to the archon to hand it over to him. The application was posted up in public, and read out in the following Ecclesia (Assembly). The question was then asked whether any one disputed the claim, or raised a counter-claim. If not, the archon assigned the inheritance to the claimant; otherwise the matter was decided by a lawsuit. Even after the assignment of an inheritance, it might be disputed in the lifetime of the holder, and for five years after his death. The claim of the nearest relation to an heiress was in the same way lodged with the archon and ratified before the Assembly.

2. Roman

If a Roman died intestate, leaving a wife and children of his body or adopted, they were his heirs (sui heredes). But this did not apply to married daughters who had passed into the manus of their husbands, or the children who had been freed by emancipation from the potestas of their father. If the man left no wife or children, the agnati, or relations in the male line, inherited, according to the degree of their kinship. If there were no agnati, and the man was a patrician, the property went to his gens. The cognati, or relations in the female line, were originally not entitled to inherit by the civil law. But, as time went on, their claim was gradually recognized more and more to the exclusion of the agnati, until at last Justinian entirely abolished the privilege of the latter, and substituted the principle of blood-relationships for that of the civil law. Vestal Virgins were regarded as entirely cut off from the family union, and therefore could not inherit from an intestate, nor, in case of their dying intestate, did the property go to their family, but to the State. On the other hand, unlike other women, they had unlimited right of testamentary disposition. If a freedman died intestate and childless, the patronus and his wife had the first claim to inherit, then their children, then their agnati, and (if the patronus was a patrician) then his gens. In later times, even if a freedman, dying childless, left a will, the patronus and his sons had claim to half the property. Augustus made a number of provisions in the matter of freedmen's inheritance. The civil law made it compulsory on a man's sui heredes to accept an inheritance (hereditatem adire) whether left by will or not. But as the debts were taken over with the property, the edictum of the praetor allowed the heirs to decline it. A fortiori, no other persons named in the will could be compelled to accept the legacy. See Testamentum.

Heres necessarius was a slave of the testator, who made him heir and liber at the same time. He was thus heir by necessity, becoming so without any action of his own, by the mere operation of the law. If a testator knew himself to be insolvent, he sometimes made a slave his heir to avoid the ignominy attached to a person whose property was sold to pay his debts (Gaius, ii. 154, etc.). The property of such an heir, acquired after his manumission, was not liable for the debts of the deceased. An insolvent inheritance was called damnosa hereditas.

Heres ex asse was the phrase used to describe one who was sole heir. So heres ex dodrante, an heir to three-quarters of an estate (Iul. 83); heres ex parte sexta, to the sixth; ex parte dimidia, to the half, etc.

See Hunger, Das Erbrecht; and Gans, Das Erbrecht in weltgeschichtlicher Entwickelung, 4 vols. (Berlin, 1823-35).

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