Does the Child Inherit the Parent's Property?

By John Cromwell

Whether a child inherits her parent’s property depends on several factors including whether the decedent was truly the child’s legal parent and if there is or isn’t a will involved. The laws regarding the distribution of a decedent’s property vary by state. It is always a good idea to consult a local attorney when investigating inheritance rights.

Children Legally Defined

For the purposes of distributing a decedent’s property, the definition of parentage is relatively limited. Generally, a biological child would have a claim to his parent’s assets. A stepchild, foster child, or grandchild is generally not classified as a decedent’s child. An adopted child may have a claim to his birth parent’s estate, but generally the child must prove he had a parent-child relationship with the decedent, or that the decedent wanted the child to inherit some of her property.

Intestacy Rules

When a person passes away without a will, the decedent’s property is considered intestate. This means that the court will divide up the property according to the state laws of intestacy, or intestate succession. While intestate succession varies by state, the 1990 Uniform Probate Code is the basis of the law in many states. Under this code, a child of a decedent does have a right to a portion of his estate. How much the child inherits under this standard depends on whether the decedent’s spouse is still alive, the spouse’s relationship to the living child, and if there are any other living children of the decedent.

Get a free, confidential bankruptcy evaluation. Learn More

Wills and Children

Wills are legal documents, which if properly executed, establish the final wishes of the decedent regarding how he wants his property distributed. For a decedent’s child, a will can have advantages and disadvantages. If the child is not a blood relation, she can inherit property that she would otherwise not be able to inherit under intestacy. Even if the child is a blood relation, a will may be advantageous because the child may inherit more through the will than through intestate. The downside is that a will can also be used to disinherit a child, preventing her from inheriting property she might otherwise have been able to claim if the estate was intestate.

Probate for Children

If a child of the decedent is excluded as a beneficiary in the will, the time to establish his claim to the estate is when it is put into probate. Probate is the legal process of administering an estate and establishing important matters such as the identity of all heirs. During this time, a prospective child can petition the court to be recognized as an heir, or challenge a will that does not include him. Probate law varies by state, so if a child wishes to contest his standing with the estate, he may want to consider hiring an attorney.

Get a free, confidential bankruptcy evaluation. Learn More
Legal Recourse if Left out of a Will as a Daughter


Related articles

The Rules of Inheritance

The rules of inheritance are set according to state law. Each state has its own statutes that explain which relatives have priority and how much inheritance they are are entitled to receive. These statutes, known as "laws of intestate succession," differ from state to state. However, there is a priority of heirs common in many state statutes.

Death Without a Will in Michigan

Under Michigan law, when a person dies without a will, it is said the person died intestate. The law has rules for what happens to a person's property when a person dies without a will. These rules are necessary because there is no will to provide direction as to how the deceased wished to distribute his property. The probate court will distribute property that was not owned jointly, as well as property that did not have a named beneficiary, according to Michigan law.

The Inheritance Hierarchy Without a Will in New York State

A person who dies without leaving a will is said to have died “intestate.” New York courts distribute intestate property according to a statutory scheme of succession and these laws apply only to property located in the state of New York. Laws of other states may apply to real property located outside of New York, even if the decedent had been a legal resident of the state. The intent of New York's intestate succession law is to distribute the estate in the manner in which the decedent likely would have had she left a will; the statutory scheme distributes the decedent's property to the closest surviving relatives first.


Related articles

An Heir's Rights to the Property of Divorced Parents

The legal relationship of spouses is altered after they divorce, but the legal status of their children rarely changes. ...

The Rights of Children of a Deceased Person

Generally, a deceased parent has no obligation to leave property to her children. In fact, nearly every state allows a ...

The California Law When the Deceased Has No Will

If a person dies intestate, or without a will, in California, his estate is subject to California's intestacy laws. ...

The Definition of an Heir in California Probate

In California, the term "heir" is defined in the state's probate code. Heirs are people who are entitled to inherit a ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED