For the purpose of inheritance, there are natural children, adopted children, children adopted by estoppel, also called equitable adoption and illegitimate children. What do these terms mean?
- Natural children are, of course, the children born to the parent.
- Adopted children are children that were adopted by the parent through the legal system.
- “Adoption by estoppel” sometimes called “equitable adoption” or “adoption status” means those children who were not adopted through the legal system but are nevertheless recognized by the law as the adopted children of a deceased person. This involves children who were raised by a decedent (someone other than their parents) and there must be a parent child relationship established between the person (the decedent) who raised them and the children. It is legally similar to a common law marriage.
- Illegitimate children are those whose parents were not married.
When a person dies intestate or when they leave a will that makes general references to “my children” or “my heirs,” all of the above will inherit. Once the status of “child” is established, it makes no difference whether they are natural children, adpoted children or illegitimate children. Adpotion by estoppel is a little different but they still inherit from the parent. See the discussion of informal adoptions like adoption by estoppel, equitable adoption or adoption status here.